Posts Tagged ‘GBV’

Samira Shackle from Newstatesman

April 15th, 2014

Acid attacks: a horrific crime on the increase worldwide

Around 1,500 cases are recorded every year but the real figure is probably far higher.


Victims of spite: acid attack survivors at an anti-violence rally in Dhaka. (Photo: Rex Features)
Victims of spite: acid attack survivors at an anti-violence rally in Dhaka. (Photo: Rex Features)

Naomi Oni had left work and was on her way home to Dagenham, east London, when acid was thrown in her face. The attack took place in 2012 when she was just 20 years old. Oni is still undergoing painful skin grafts to rebuild her face.

In an emotional interview on Radio 4’s Today programme on 24 March, Oni, now 22, spoke of her isolation. “I didn’t choose this,” she said. “I’m only human.” She labelled the Metropolitan Police as incompetent: they initially suggested she had thrown acid on herself. They later charged Mary Konye, a former friend of Oni’s, with the attack; she was found guilty in January and jailed for 12 years.

Acid violence has been in the headlines after several high-profile cases. Last August, Kirstie Trup and Katie Gee, two British 18-year-olds, suffered a random attack in Zanzibar. The previous January, the Bolshoi Ballet’s artistic director Sergei Filin was assaulted by one of its principal dancers.

Worldwide, about 1,500 cases of acid violence are recorded every year, according to Acid Survivors Trust, but the real figure is probably far higher. And the sheer brutality of acid attacks – which take seconds to carry out but can cause permanent disability, as well as excruciating pain and disfigurement – makes them unusual and noteworthy.

It has been suggested that attacks are increasing in the UK but a lack of reliable statistics makes this difficult to verify. NHS statistics recorded 105 hospital admissions for “assault by corrosive substance” in 2011-2012, but this category covers not only acid. That contrasts with 44 admissions in 2006-2007. There is no ethnic or geographic evidence to back this up, but some reports suggest that honour crimes in south Asian, south-east Asian and East African communities are responsible for the increase.

Certainly attacks are prevalent in south Asia, but they also happen in Cambodia, Vietnam, Colombia, Peru and elsewhere, including the UK and the US. It is a kind of violence that transcends cultural and religious borders, but is most common in places where acid is readily available. In south Asia, where regulation is poor and acid is used in the cotton industry, a bottle of the stuff can be bought for 20p.

The crime has a long history in Britain. In the 1740s, when sulphuric acid was widely available, acid-throwing happened often. In the 1830s, one Glasgow periodical wrote that acid violence had “become so common . . . as to become almost a stain on the national character”.

Acid attacks are often a form of gender-based violence and, as such, they occur most commonly in countries where women are disenfranchised. Last year I visited the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) in Islamabad, the only centre in Pakistan dedicated to the rehabilitation and treatment of victims. The most striking thing about the stories of the women I met was the triviality of the causes: men taking revenge for rejected marriage proposals or husbands who got bored by their wives. It brought to mind the case of the former model Katie Piper, the UK’s most high-profile acid survivor, whose attack was orchestrated by an ex-boyfriend in 2008.

There are no hard and fast rules of this crime: men can be the victims of acid attack and women can be the perpetrators. Yet the attacks are always about exerting control and erasing identity. Mohammad Jawad, a plastic surgeon who operated on Piper and who appeared in Saving Face, the Oscar-winning documentary about acid attacks in Pakistan, described it thus: “The attacker is saying: ‘I don’t want to kill her – I am going to do something to distort her.’ It’s a walking dead situation for the victim.”

When the Today presenter Mishal Husain asked Oni why Konye had attacked her, she started to sob. “She is an evil person . . . No one in this world should throw acid on someone because they had an argument.”

It is a natural impulse to search for the reasons for such abuse, but can there ever be a justification? To most people it would be unimaginable to lose one’s face. As Oni said during her interview, explaining oneself and being disbelieved is a second abuse.

The situation for survivors of acid violence varies globally, but to differing extents all survivors feel socially ostracised. Few cultures are kind to disfigurement.

“Acid attack doesn’t mean the end of your life,” Valerie Khan, the director of ASF Islamabad, told me: “provided you receive those rehabilitation services to psychologically and physically repair you, mentally rebuild your self-confidence, and empower you economically – despite the new you, which is not necessarily an easy one to be accepted with.”

Acid violence is an extreme expression of control. Society can help to wrest some of that back for survivors by believing them, supporting them, providing medical treatment, and, crucially, redressing the balance with justice.

ASF Pakistan And NCSW Join Hands To Counter Acid Violence In Pakistan

April 15th, 2014

Article from Daily News:

NCSW, ASF sign MoU for data collection, monitoring

ISLAMABAD: The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) for the establishment of a mechanism for data collection and monitoring data update on a six-month basis
The purpose of this MoU is to organise training/networking workshops for capacity building and sensitisation of parliamentarians/members of assemblies, especially women, in relation with acid and burn violence. Both NCSW and ASF would identify, document and share good practices that will be capitalised upon in the future to address gender-based violence, especially violence against women. NCSW Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz termed the MoU a milestone for NCSW and said it was an important step towards testing and developing a workable monitoring mechanism that will provide the basis for appropriate actions. Mumtaz hoped that the MoU will provide a good model for collectively promoting women’s rights and working towards achieving gender equity as envisaged in Article 25 of the constitution. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation the country has a high survival rate amongst the victims of acid attacks. The victims, who mostly hail from low-income groups, face the uphill task of rebuilding their lives with physical challenges and psychological changes, which require long-term surgical treatment and in-depth intervention from psychologists and counselors. The ASF Chairperson Valerie Khan defined the MoU as “an interesting step towards institutionalising the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Pakistan”. She said that “such collaborations between the civil society and government institutions are crucial for enhancing good governance in the current scenario present in the country”.

valerie Khan Yusufzai, Chairperson ASF, along with her excellency Mrs Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson National Commission on The Status of Women

New Documentary, New Adventure…Come And Check!

November 18th, 2013

Please click on this link, you will be amazed…

ASF and AUS AID joining hands for more effective law implementation

October 7th, 2013

Training lawyers in Quetta on criminal law amendment act XXV, 2011

medico-legal staff joining the 2nd training

Gender Equity Program

September 25th, 2013

Nusrat, an agent of change

Speaking for gender equity after a long journey

New Campaign For Comprehensive Acid And Burn Crime Bill Launched, Join The Move And Share The Link!

August 10th, 2012

Be part of the change, share the link, disseminate!


August 2nd, 2012






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Comment: How many more faces will be lost?

Published: July 30, 2012

Despite a national resolve, provinces have not passed any bills on acid crimes.PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: In December 2011, some survivors of acid attacks sat in the Senate’s gallery to observe the passage of an amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) that declared such attacks criminal. The strong support of our Parliament on that bill was a major step toward dealing with this inhumane crime.

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Oscar for a film on acid survivors got national and international acclaim and helped to move public opinion against this crime. The suicide death of acid victim Fakhra Yunus was another jolt. After numerous operations to normalise her face and body, she finally gave up and committed suicide in Italy. Many in Pakistan mourned her loss and wanted to put a stop to the menace of acid attacks, but the horror stories continue. Many more have become victims, blinded and deformed by egotistical criminals. Each of these attacks defaces the image of Pakistani society.

Since 2010, the Acid Survivors Foundation has led a movement to criminalise these inhumane acts. It received support from government officials, health practitioners, the academia, burn centre officials, civil society and parliamentarians. They worked together for a year to produce two draft bills. One was the PPC amendment to criminalise the action of acid and burn attacks, while the other was a comprehensive bill to strengthen the courts’ ability to convict the criminal and support the victim.

This second bill is necessary because the judicial process is complex. These crimes will not end only by criminalising the specific act. There are a number of other issues relating to the process of reporting, investigation, collecting medical evidence, compensation for rehabilitation, and protection for the victim and the witnesses. Both of these bills, like the twin laws against sexual harassment, are needed to address the complex social web surrounding this crime. Without these comprehensive laws, criminals will walk free while their victims will continue to live in shame and misery.

With regard to devolution, the provinces must address the issue in their assemblies while the federal government must take forth the bill for Islamabad. By October 2011, the National Commission on the Status of Women had reviewed the second, more comprehensive bill with its own legal experts and civil society. However, despite national resolve on this issue, not a single assembly has taken any step towards the passage of bills.

One wonders what is preventing the assemblies from taking up a bill that has been well-prepared, and is essential for the handling of heinous crimes. We have a federal government which has proven its commitment to women – having passed seven pro-women laws in the last three years. We have provincial governments that have taken on their devolved portfolio of women’s development quite well after June 2011, and are picking up the pace of action on implementing anti-sexual harassment laws.

One realises that the clash of our major national institutions has deflected priorities away from substantive issues, but the daughters of this country cannot keep losing their faces. How many more women will be deformed before the wake-up call is heard by chief ministers?

In the last three years, the partnership between the government and civil society on social legislation has been well established. The draft is ready, but the bill has to be moved. Who can we count on to keep up the pressure until a comprehensive law on acid crimes is passed? Can we count on the prime minister to push for passage of the bill for Islamabad, setting a positive lead for the provincial assemblies to follow? Can we count on the chief ministers to take this draft law up urgently, as if the next woman to lose her face will be their own daughter?

The latest democratic period has brought us many needed changes in our laws, and one continues to be optimistic that the society will soon move in a direction to resolve this issue as well.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2012.

A Press Article After Media Training.

July 25th, 2012

Acid and burn victims: Sensitised questioning and permission beforehand hallmark of ethical reporting

Published: July 23, 2012

Journalists get trained on how to better report on acid, burn crimes.

ISLAMABAD: For ethical reporting, journalists must make sure that the acid and burn crime victims they are interviewing are willing to be interviewed and/or photographed and are comfortable with the questions being asked.

This was said by Action Research Institute Executive Director Zaigham Khan, who was leading a training workshop for journalists on effective reporting on acid and burn violence in Pakistan. The other trainer at the Saturday’s workshop was ASF President Valerie Khan. The training was organised by the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), a non-governmental organisation.

In addition to being briefed on ethical behaviour while dealing with acid and burn victims, journalists also had the opportunity to interact with three acid burn victims, Safia, Shagufta and Sidra.

The young women shared their horrific experience of acid violence as well as how ASF helped them regain a semblance of their normal life.

Safia from Multan was only six months old when some people involved in a land dispute with her father broke in to her house and threw acid on her and her mother as they slept.

Safia says she has been getting aid from ASF since she was eight-years-old in the form of support and medical operations.

“I have gone through three operations so far, two on my eyes and one on my nose,” she said.

Thirty-year-old Shagufta from Muzaffargarh — a district with a high incidence of acid violence — was burnt by her husband three years ago.

In a bid to kill her and remarry, he threw burning oil on her, leaving her with burns on her body and part of her face.

She has been under the care of ASF since then. However, the numerous painful operations she has had to undergo are taking a toll on her. “I feel like the operations will never end,” she said.

Participants were given copies of the Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2012 so that they can better understand the crime.

They were also asked to join the Working Group Against Acid and Burn Violence (WGABV), a civil society group committed to the eradication of burn violence, defending its victims and generating awareness.

Earlier, Valerie Khan noted that the media’s role is central to raise awareness about the prevalence of acid and other burn crimes, as well as sensitising the public and government to it.

“We try to cooperate with the media as much as we can,” she said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2012.

Training Media On Effective Reporting Of Acid Violence: A Momentum Was Born Again!

July 25th, 2012

Acid attack survivors sharing their stories

Survivors acting as agents of change and interacting with the press

3rd March 2012: Before International Women Day, Nusrat Demands Provincial Assemblies To Table Acid And Burn Crime Bill 2012.

March 6th, 2012

Nusrat addressing her plea: democracy in process!

Islamabad, 3rd March, 2012


After the struggle to eradicate acid violence was highlighted globally through the Oscar Award winning documentary, Saving Face,

ASF, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Rukhsana and EVAWG alliance call for the Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2012 to be passed in the provincial assemblies.

Islamabad: After the announcement of Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s winning an Oscar for best short documentary Saving Face, this week, the whole of Pakistan is jubilant and feels proud to win this distinction for the first time in its history.

The Pakistani nation is proud and thankful to Sharmeen and her team, ASF’s team, its survivors as well as PIMS Burn Center, ASTI and Islamic Help for achieving this historical result and featuring a brave and daring Pakistan. The message is very clear: we have a problem, we face it and address it with the citizens of Pakistan (men and women together), striving to find solutions and stand by the victims. This message is a ray of hope for burn victims against this heinous crime globally and the documentary will help in spreading awareness and will encourage the stakeholders to find solutions all over the world.

We would also like to avail this opportunity to thank Dr. Jawad and his team from UK, who contributed to improve the lives of the survivors. There are also many other heroes in this country, and we would like to pause and celebrate them: doctors, nurses, lawyers, journalists, government representatives, parliamentarians who are fighting for the cause in a permanent and dedicated manner. To mention only a few of them: Pr. Hamid Hassan, BBH, Rawalpindi, Dr. Tariq Iqbal, PIMS, Islamabad, Dr. Charles VIVA, Interplast, UK, Dr Naheeed Chaudry from Nishtar Hospital in Multan, Dr Mazhar Hussain, staff of Civil Hospital Karachi and Friend of Burns, Marvi Memon, Anusha Rehman, Bushra Gohar, Atiya Inayat Ullah, Nilofar Bakhtyar, Raza Rabbani, Jan Mohammad Jamali, Haji Adeel…

However, the work has just started, we need to do more to show the world that Pakistan can and will eradicate acid violence: Acid Survivors Foundation along with Sharmen Obaid Chinoy and Working Group on Acid and Burn Violence (Acid Survivors Foundation, Mehergarh, PODA, SPARC, Aurat Foundation, Sisters Trust) call upon the legislators to pass Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2012 in all provincial assemblies of Pakistan.

While the recently passed criminal law amendment related to HURT  has officially made acid throwing a crime against the state, much more now needs to be done to address the challenges of  investigation, fair trial, free medical and rehabilitation services, funding and monitoring mechanism: this is precisely what the Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2012 is proposing.

Consequently, today, Rukhsana and the other agents of change will raise their voice again, to build the Pakistan we have all been dreaming of…