Posts Tagged ‘UDHR’

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

August 10th, 2012

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We Tent To Forget Essential References…

July 20th, 2010

Acid Attacks and Other Forms of Mutilation


The Global Persecution of Women

Human Rights


Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Article 26

All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.


Article 5

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:

(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women;


Hilary Mackenzie, “’I’ve never known such brutality,’” Vancouver Sun, 15 March 2002.

Oppression of women under the Taliban regime went far beyond burqas and confinement. Here are harrowing stories of women married to the abusive fundamentalists.

From the moment Roshon Gul refused to allow her second daughter to marry a Taliban commander, she live din fear of the reprisals her first daughter would suffer.

At 18, her oldest, Bibi Aisha, had already been married for 18 months to a Taliban official her family knew mistreated her.

So when a neighbour’s knock sounded on her door in the dead of night 15 months ago, Gul was half-braced for the sight of the bloodied body.

What she didn’t expect was the mark of a branding iron. Undressing the body for burial, Gul found the wound seared into the soft flesh of Bibi Aishi’s stomach.

It told her, as nothing else could, how Aktyar, the Taliban commander, had regarded her daughter. She was property.

Aktyar killed Baba Aisha to punish the family for not allowing Taira, then 16, to wed his brother, another Taliban commander. …

“It’s worse here than people think, [Dr. Sima Samara, deputy prime minister in the interim government for women’s affairs] said. “It comes down to human rights abuses.”


”Bangladesh: Acid attack problem, women & society,” Women in the Middle East, Vol, 44, July to August 2006.

Lawyers in Bangladesh are calling for better implementation of legislation to stop acid attacks. In 2002 the death penalty was introduced for throwing acid after the number of victims rose to nearly 500 a year.

There is also legislation to force businesses that use acid to store it safely. But 267 people were still attacked last year and campaigners say it is because the law is ignored. Acid throwing remains a major problem in Bangladesh. There is even a special hospital and rehabilitation centre for victims in the capital, run by a charity called the Acid Survivors’ Foundation. Attacks by spurned men are all too common.

In 2002 Bangladesh introduced very tough laws to try to stop acid throwing, including the death penalty in the most serious cases. And there are regulations on the sale, use, storage, import and export of acid. The number of people attacked has fallen from a high of nearly 500 in that year, but still, in 2005, according to the Acid Survivors’ Foundation, 267 people had acid thrown on them. BBC News

“Bangladesh: Men to protest continuing acid attacks against women,” Women in the Middle East, Vol;. 43, May & June 2006.

More than 200 women, were attacked with acid last year in Bangladesh, a male-dominated, traditional society, according to the Acid Survivors’ Foundation, which sponsored the rally. About 2,000 men marched in Bangladesh’s capital a day before International Women’s Day, to protest against acid attacks that permanently disfigure many women each year, organizers said.

The protesters, including celebrities, teachers and students, carried placards and banners reading “Stop acid violence, respect women’s rights” and “Throwing acid is a heinous crime.” Dozens of female acid victims accompanied the marchers.

Most of the victims are women attacked by spurned lovers, but recently more men and children are being splashed with flesh-burning, agonizingly painful sulfuric acid in family arguments or disputes over property, Rahman told reporters.

The chemical is easily obtained from battery shops or jewelers, who use it to brighten precious metals. The number of acid attacks has declined in the past few years, but they are still a serious threat to women, who comprise 75 per cent of the victims.

In 2002, 485 women were victims of acid attacks, while 420 cases were reported in 2003 and 322 in 2004, according to the foundation’s statistics.

Hayley Mick, “Acid attacks in Bangladesh,” CBC News Viewpoint , April 20, 2004.

Jobeda used to have long hair that reached down to her waist. That was before three men from her district in northern Bangladesh raped and beat her with rifle butts, shaved her head, gathered the hair into a ball and shoved it into her vagina. Then they poured acid on her genitals and left her for dead.

Jobeda did not die, and a month after the attack, the 33-year-old mother of three is still undergoing excruciating burn treatments at a hospital in Dhaka. Run by the Acid Survivors Foundation and partially funded by the Canadian government, it is one of two hospitals in this country of 140 million with the proper facilities to treat acid burns.

It’s a service that may be needed more than ever, because according to ASF’s carefully kept statistics, the frequency of acid violence in Bangladesh is rising.

Today most of the hospital’s 40 beds are occupied, and the recovery ward is full of women in various stages of agony and gruesome disfigurement. When acid is poured on the skin it works quickly, corroding away flesh, noses, ears, even bone. Lost eyelids can cause blindness, thick scars lead to immobility, and infection from improper treatment brings death. The damage inflicted by acid violence is almost beyond comprehension, as are the motivations behind it.

Jobeda has just returned from the operating room, and sits up in bed with her broken legs stretched before her. The night of the attack she had been visiting her brother who was in the midst of a property dispute. To silence and punish her brother, his enemies brutalized her.

In the next bed, a 16 year-old whimpers from the agonizing process of having her dressings changed. She refused a marriage proposal, and the spurned suitor made the right side of her pretty face a mask of uneven flesh and open wounds.

In another room, a 2½ year old opens her mouth wide to show the scarred insides. Her father poured acid in her mouth when she was 7 months old to punish her mother for being unable to pay her dowry or produce a boy, like he wanted.

“Whatever we see here, it is the power of men – when they are not able to execute that power, then they are throwing acid,” says ASF Executive Director Monira Rahman, adding that acid violence reflects a broader phenomenon of gender violence and the repression of women socially and economically.

While men are also victims of acid violence in Bangladesh, the overwhelming majority are women. Some of the most common reasons for attacks include the refusal of marriage or sexual advances, family quarrels and property disputes. About 40 per cent of victims are under the age of 18, since women often marry young.

When ASF was founded in 1999 with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency and UNICEF, it began to systematically document the scope and frequency of acid violence in the country since consistent statistics had been lacking until that point. Last year marked the first decrease in the annual number of reported attacks, from 485 in 2002 to 410 in 2003. But the first three months of 2004 have already reversed in that trend, with 72 reported attacks compared to 55 during the same period last year.

The reason for the increase is unclear, although it may reflect an overall rise in violence and political unrest in the country, says Rahman. Experts also point to the climate of impunity surrounding acid crimes. The federal government took a major step in 2002 by passing new laws that included tougher penalties for acid perpetrators, legislation on the sale and possession of acid, and special courts for the speedy trial of offenders. While there has been a slight increase in the number of convictions, Bangladesh still suffers from a corrupt and poorly trained police force and a backlogged court system, so the vast majority of perpetrators still go unpunished.

It’s a reality Jobeda knows too well. One of her attackers was arrested but the other two are free. They are politically powerful men and she says she is afraid of what will happen to her when she goes home. But when she pulls up her dress to show the raw, red wound between her legs, her message is clear: See what they have done to me.

She is tired from talking and eases herself down on the bed. I hold her hand and it is as if the gesture is too much and she lets go. “Pray for me,” she says through tears and heaving breath, and I do.

Death for acid attacks in Bangladesh,” Tribune, Chandigarh, 15 March 2002.

Dhaka, March 14

Bangladesh Parliament has approved two tough laws, including the provision for the death sentence for acid attacks, following increased incidents of men and women being sprayed with acid.

Parliament has passed a law titled Acid Crimes Control Act, 2002, under which those found guilty of killing a person by splashing acid on the victim will get the death sentence and be fined 100,000 taka.

It also authorises the institution of special courts to prosecute all suspected offenders within 90 days of being charged. The law also provides for a seven-year jail term for those found guilty of filing false charges.

Proceeds from the fine will go to the victims or their families. Any negligence in investigating an incident of acid attack is also a punishable offence under the new law, which leaves no scope for bail, except in case of an appeal to the high court.

A total of 153 cases of acid attacks in which 350 persons, of whom 90 per cent were women, were filed in Bangladesh last year, Law Minister Moudud Ahmed said.

Figures released by the Acid Survivors’ Foundation reveal 338 acid attacks were carried out across Bangladesh last year, 50 per cent higher than in 2000.

Another law passed by Parliament a day earlier aims to restrict production, import, transportation, storing and selling of acid in the country. The law on acid abuse stipulates 1 to 15 years in prison depending on the nature of the crime.

Alistair Lawson, “Bangladesh Acid Attacks Soar,” BBC News, 30 Jan. 2002.

Figures released by the Acid Survivors Foundation in Bangladesh show that the number of acid attacks jumped 50% in 2001 from the previous year.

There were 338 attacks throughout Bangladesh last year, most carried out against women fleeing arranged marriages, the foundation said.

But, in some cases, children and men have been victimised too.

The practice of throwing acid has been described by the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, as a disgrace to her country. Victims are often left horrifically disfigured and scarred for life.

The Acid Survivors Foundation has arranged for two British plastic surgeons to treat people who have been attacked, and they are now operating on patients.

The foundation’s executive director, John Morrison, said that while the latest figures made gloomy reading, there have been some positive developments in the battle to stop acid attacks.

Special courts

“The new government came into office on the first of October and they have already moved,” he said.

“They are setting up special courts to deal with acid violence. They are passing special laws to prohibit the sale of acid to unauthorised people.

“They’re ensuring that the law enforcing agencies act on this.”

So far at least, two people have been sentenced to death in recent months for carrying out acid attacks in Bangladesh.

It is not clear whether the rise in the number of attacks is in any way connected with the widescale breakdown of law and order in the country over the last year.

Some commentators say those who carry out the attacks may not be fully aware of the pain and suffering they cause, and that the problem can never be eradicated unless people are properly educated.

Alastair Lawson, “Bangladesh protest against acid attacks,” BBC News, 8 March 2002.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated differently in Bangladesh.

Thousands of protesters, most of them men, turned out for a men-led march in the capital, Dhaka, on Friday to protest against acid attacks on women.

They are concerned that there has been a 50% increase in such attacks in 2001 compared to 2000.

Latest figures released by the Acid Survivors’ Foundation, a prominent NGO which helps rehabilitate victims, show that there were 338 attacks carried out across Bangladesh last year.

The march was attended by numerous prominent male politicians from across the political spectrum.

Well-known celebrities and academics also took part.


Organisers say the event is unique in Asia and shows that Bangladesh is prepared to acknowledge the problem and takes active measure to combat it.

Acid attacks on women are carried out across Asia, with reports of such incidents from Burma, Cambodia, India and Pakistan.

“The reasons for the escalation in the number of acid attacks is linked to the general breakdown of law and order in Bangladesh,” says Dr John Morrison, executive director of the Acid Survivors’ Foundation.

“But at least the new government elected last year seems to be determined to do something about the problem. It has introduced laws in parliament that will make some acid attacks a capital offence, and has set up special courts which must prosecute all suspected acid throwers within 90 days of charges being framed.

“It has also introduced new laws to restrict the sale of acid,” he says.

Public outrage

Organisers of the demonstration said that it was being held to show to the outside world that Bangladesh is a peaceful country where the vast majority of people are prepared to speak out against the horrific disfigurements caused by acid attacks.

Most of the victims – around 80% of whom are women – have had sulphuric or hydrochloric acid thrown in their faces.

The Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, says that such attacks blacken the name of her country.

She says that she is determined to improve the rights of women, but critics say that her four-party coalition contains two hardline Islamic parties who are not renowned for their promotion of women’s rights.

Bangladesh – with a population of 130 million people – is a conservative Muslim country where many people have traditionally regarded women as subservient to men.

Weapon of choice

The vast majority of acid attacks are carried out on women by jilted husbands or boyfriends. Some are angry that their advances have been rejected; in other cases it can be because of a domestic row such as a dispute over a dowry payment.

Experts say there is also evidence to suggest that more men and children are being attacked, too, and that acid may in some cases be replacing guns and knives as an instrument of attack.

“It’s difficult to tell what it is that goes through the mind of someone who throws skin-burning acid over another human being,” said Dr Ron Hiles, a British plastic surgeon who recently travelled to Bangladesh to treat acid attack survivors.

“There are all sorts of motivations, one of the prime ones being jealousy.

“But I don’t think people realise before they carry out the attack quite what horrific injuries they will cause.”

”Bangladesh cracks down on acid attacks,” BBC News, 5 Feb. 2002.

The Bangladeshi Government has approved tough new laws to curb a rise in acid attacks on women.

Alleged attackers will be tried by special tribunals and will face a maximum penalty of death.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia described the attacks as a disgrace and promised to take firm steps against perpetrators following her election last October.

Figures released by the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) in Bangladesh earlier this year showed there had been a 50% increase in attacks last year compared to the year before.

Most of the attacks are carried out against young women who have rejected arranged marriages, although in some cases children and men have been attacked too.

Child victims

In 2001, 340 men and women were attacked with acid, according to the ASF.

Munira Rahman from the ASF said a two-month-old baby was hurt in an acid attack on its mother in January this year.

Attacks have been carried out with sulphuric or hydrochloric acid bought in shops or with acid taken from batteries.

Under the current law, shopkeepers selling acid are obliged to enquire about its intended use, and the new measures will further tighten restrictions on its purchase.

Acid attacks leave victims badly scarred and feeling suicidal and, in some cases, have even resulted in death.

“Because of their defaced faces neither their families or anyone else will accept them and unless their rehabilitation is ensured, what life will they have after surgery?” said Bangladeshi plastic surgeon S L Sen, from Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

The new law will also include guidelines for police on how to treat the victims of acid attacks.

”Joyous homecoming for acid attack victims,” BBC News, 22 July 1999.

Six Bangladeshi women, who received horrific injuries in acid attacks by angry husbands or jilted lovers, have returned home to an emotional welcome after plastic surgery in Spain.

Relatives greeted the women with sobs and hugs of joy.

The six are the first batch of 20 women to receive free medical treatment at a Spanish clinic specialising in plastic surgery.

The women underwent months of treatment for their injuries.

One of the vicitms, Mosammat Monira, had surgery to reconstruct her eyelids, neck, nose, lips and an ear.

“I almost couldn’t recognise you,” her father, Gazi Rahman, said as he hugged her.

Married at the age of 10, she was attacked last year by her husband who was angry at the amount of the dowry paid by her family.

Other victims were attacked after rejecting potential suitors, or in disputes with family members over land and marriage.

The free treatment was arranged by the Bangladesh Acid Survivors Foundation in conjunction with a group of Spanish surgeons.

At a news conference in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, Spanish surgeon Roberto Molto, who accompanied the women back home, said: “Our company will be happy to conduct plastic surgery on more Bangladeshi acid victims.”

The actual number of such attacks is difficult to document because many cases go unreported. The Dhaka office of Unicef reported 200 cases of acid violence last year, an increase from the 130 cases reported in 1997.

But the actual number is higher, the agency said in a recent report.

Nasrin Hoque of Naripakkho, a women’s rights organisation, said the while the physical wounds could be treated the emotional scars would remain with the victims their entire lives.

She said: “No one can give back the girls their lost beauty, but we can at least give them a face back and tell them they are not neglected.”


Seth Mydans, “Vengeance Destroys Faces, and Souls, in Cambodia,” New York Times, 22 July 2001.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — It is a form of revenge that is intended to be worse than murder. Every time the victim looks into the mirror she will know: I am ugly now.

The fleeting smile of Som Rasmey is still disconcertingly beautiful. But her face is ribbed and ruined by acid, her left eye red and staring, her burned scalp barren.

After the screaming, thrashing attack 20 months ago the scorned wife who drenched her with acid, Minh Rinath, returned to make the message explicit. “He is mine now,” she said. “He will never want you again.”

Miss Som Rasmey, who is now 24, had a particular kind of beauty — lustrous, proud, the kind that could be as intimidating as it was alluring.

The attack, in which three other women held her down by her arms and legs and hair, has not only robbed her of her looks; it has crushed her soul.

“I have the soul of a dead woman now,” she said as tears streamed down her face. “My body is alive but my soul is dead.”

In the past two years, there has been a horrific surge in acid attacks in Cambodia, most of them carried out — in contrast to places like Bangladesh — by wives against the lovers of their husbands. One local human rights group, Licadho, recorded 20 such attacks last year in a sort of imitative mass hysteria.

“The wife does not want you to die,” said Maniline Ek, an American volunteer at a women’s shelter here. “They want you to live and suffer. It’s torture. People look at your face and they say, `Oh, she took someone else’s husband.’ ”

These are battles among the oppressed, the harsh intersection of mutual tragedies — woman against woman. In Cambodia, power belongs almost exclusively to men. The philandering husbands are almost never the targets of attack.

A local women’s aid group, the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, recorded only one instance last year in which a husband was the target. And it was the only instance in which the attacker was tried and punished.

It is common in Cambodia for men — particularly men of power — to take an unofficial second wife. The betrayal of the official wife is so familiar that popular songs have been written about it.

“Our society does not condemn the men,” said the director of the crisis center, Chanthol Oung. “It feels their behavior is acceptable.”

The most highly publicized attack was carried out in late 1999 by a woman named Khourn Sophal, the wife of Svay Sittha, under secretary of state at the Council of Ministers.

The victim, an 18-year-old actress and singer named Tat Marina, was horribly disfigured when the woman and several bodyguards poured about five quarts of acid over her.

A government spokesman, Khieu Thavika, described the attack as a personal matter “for the first and second wife to resolve.” Although charges have been brought against Mrs. Khourn Sophal, no move has been made to arrest her. Relatives of her victim say Mrs. Khourn Sophal telephones periodically to insult the young woman.

Three years ago, the wife of an even higher official was implicated in the shooting death of Cambodia’s most popular singer, Piseth Pilika. That official is the prime minister himself, Hun Sen. No one has been arrested or charged in that attack.

Typically, the girlfriends or second wives of powerful men are poor young women who have little but beauty to offer them hope or prospects for the future. And when that leads to conflict, they are powerless.

At the age of 15, Miss Som Rasmey dropped out of school to earn money for her family by selling coconuts, cigarettes and gasoline at the roadside. Three years ago she graduated to serving drinks at a restaurant.

Like many other young women who serve drinks, she soon attracted a patron, a powerful military colonel named Lim Sok Heng. Her life was transformed: beautiful clothes, holidays at the beach, even a trip to Hong Kong. And then a baby.

With time, Miss Som Rasmey said, she grew frightened by the colonel’s brutality and by increasing threats from his wife. She tried to leave him but he imprisoned her in a small house under constant guard.

His obsession with her must have driven his wife mad. When at last she attacked, she was raging.

“I’ll throw the acid now!” she shouted as her friends pinned her victim to the floor. Miss Som Rasmey had been nursing her 7-month-old daughter and had just time enough to toss her out of the way.

Her lips tighten as she describes what followed and her speech is clipped and angry.

“She emptied a bottle over my head,” she said. “Then another half bottle. I was burning all over. I struggled and I tried to break free. I ran into the yard and she ran after me. She had one more bottle and she wanted to throw it. She was shouting, and I was shouting, `I’m burning; please help me.’ ”

The attack ended when a group of neighbors surrounded Mrs. Minh Rinath with hatchets in their hands.

As they heaved Miss Som Rasmey onto a pallet to rush her to a hospital, she could hear her little girl screaming, the last time she would hear the baby’s voice. After the attack, Colonel Lim Sok Heng and his wife took the baby home and Miss Som Rasmey cannot be sure whether she is now alive or dead.

Following the attack, the colonel seized Miss Som Rasmey from the hospital and imprisoned her again, this time in Vietnam, for fear she would make trouble. Six months later, she escaped and returned to her home, so disfigured that at first her family did not recognize her.

Her anger has not subsided. Miss Som Rasmey is the first victim to pursue her attacker in court, demanding compensation and the return of her child.

And it is here that the fundamental law of Cambodia asserted itself: impunity. Cambodian courts consistently bow to the power of position and the persuasion of cash.

As Miss Som Rasmey put it: “The rich and the poor are completely different. Prison is only for poor people. But people like Lim Sok Heng and his wife can do whatever they want and get away with it.”

At the trial last fall, the judge, Tith Sothy, displayed impatience with Miss Som Rasmey, cutting her off and ordering her not to waste his time “talking about romance.”

But he was not an unsympathetic man. He could see who had been wronged here. The scorned wife, he said, had acted out of understandable feelings of jealousy.

The judge dismissed Miss Som Rasmey’s demand for the return of her child. He sentenced her attacker, Mrs. Minh Rinath, to two years in prison for misdemeanor assault, suspended.


”Milia Abrar,” Sounds Like Peace, downloaded from

Milia Abrar was stabbed to death in the public bathroom of Angrigon Park on October 20th, 1998. The 21-year-old woman, born in Bangladesh, moved to Canada with her family in 1990. Milia was studying social sciences at Dawson College when she was killed. Whoever killed Milia, not only stabbed her numerous times but also poured acid on her face to disfigure her. This act is an increasingly common crime in Bangladesh at the moment. The main motivation behind acid attacks is revenge by a rejected suitor. Police believe that Milia’s killer could not accept that she did not love him.

The key suspect after two weeks of investigation agreed to take a lie detector test and failed. However, lie detector tests are inadmissible in court and police have been trying to find other grounds upon which to build their case. The suspect visited the Abrar family home where Milia lived hours before she was killed. The suspect is a free man and he is residing in Toronto. This is the only information that has been released on him to date. Police are looking for a statement from someone who has any additional information about the crime.

Milia’s family and the South Asian community have expressed much frustration about the lack of progress on the case and have urged the community to speak out. At Studio XX, we would like to voice our outrage at the horror of this crime. We also want to express our shared frustration with Milia’s family and our heartfelt sympathy. The silence around this case and others like it must be broken in an effort to create a society where women will live without fear. Finally, we would like to share a statement released by the South Asian Women’s Community Centre at Milia’s memorial service at Dawson college:

“The right to life, the right to live without fear. These were not enjoyed by Milia Abrar. We are angered by her murder and as women we want to send a clear message:

We are not property.

We will not be reduced to serving the whims and fancies of men.

We are human beings with free will.

We are collectively sending a message to whoever is responsible for this cowardly and heinous crime. And the message is this: We will not be silenced.

We will not be intimidated.”


”Patrols against Kashmir acid attacks,” BBC News, 12 Aug. 2001.

More women are now covering up

India has stepped up police patrols in Indian-administered Kashmir to prevent acid attacks on women who do not follow the Islamic dress code.

Dozens of armed women officers are also guarding girls schools and colleges in the capital, Srinagar, where two women who were not wearing veils were sprayed with acid earlier in the week.

A group called Lashkar-e-Jabbar, believed to be a hardline faction among Kashmir’s many militant groups, has claimed responsibility, but other militant organisations have condemned the use of force against women.

Shopkeepers in Srinagar have said sales of black silk used to make a veil or long robe have increased since the attacks.

A senior official in India’s Border Security Force, R. P Singh, said they were joining the local police to stop the acid attacks.

“I have asked my boys to apprehend elements spraying acid on women, ” he said.


The acid attacks have spread panic among the region, especially in Srinagar where more women have taken to covering their heads.

“Earlier we were vulnerable to grenade attacks and crossfire on the streets, but now we are vulnerable to acid attacks. What kind of life is this?” 21-year-old student Shumail Lone told Reuters news agency.

An apparent hardline group called Lashkar-e-Jabbar took responsibility for the attacks, saying they were part of a campaign to impose an Islamic dress code on women.

But the attacks have been condemned by other militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, who were quoted in Srinagar newspapers as denying any involvement.


“There is no room for such acts in Islam. Acid throwing on women is extremely deplorable,” Lashkar-e-Toiba spokesman Abu Osama was reported as saying.

The acid attacks has sparked fear among women in Kashmir and opened a debate on freedom of choice.

“The veil should be a woman’s choice, not her compulsion,” Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, head of the Kashmiri political-religious group, Jamaat-e-Islami, told AFP news agency.

But the campaign has seemingly worried many.

Sales of black silk for veils and long dresses have risen recently.

“Over the past two weeks the demand for veil silk has increased,” one shopkeeper said.

Most Muslim women in Kashmir are not fully veiled, although some groups in the past have tried to persuade women to observe a stricter Islamic dress code.

Altaf Hussain, “Kashmir women face acid attacks,” BBC News, 10 Aug. 2001.

There is growing fear among women in Indian-administered Kashmir after a number of acid attacks in the capital, Srinagar.

Police say unidentified persons threw a bottle of diluted acid into a passenger bus in Srinagar on Tuesday.

Three women and a man received burn injuries.

On Monday, two girls, aged about 15, were attacked with acid in the Maharajgung area of the city.

Police say they are investigating both incidents, but have yet to reach any firm conclusion regarding the motive.

Islamic dress

However, a local newspaper reported that a group called Lashkar-e-Jabbar had claimed responsibility, saying such attacks are a part of its campaign to enforce an Islamic dress code among women.

Various newspapers have noted that Islamic militant groups – who are fighting Indian rule – have been silent over the incidents.

A leading Urdu daily, Al-Safa News, said in a front-page report on Friday that ordinary people were worried and wanted the militant groups to make their stand known.

The head of the Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir religious party, Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, has expressed his deep anguish over the acid-throwing.

The Jamaat-e-Islami is part of the main Kashmiri separatist alliance – the All-Party Hurriyat Conference.

He told the BBC that Islam does not approve of any coercion in matters of religion.

He says society can be reformed only through persuasion.

Any reform brought about by force is not only short-lived but counter-productive as well, he says.

The majority of Muslim women in Kashmir are not fully veiled, although there have been attempts in the past by some groups to persuade women to observe a stricter Islamic dress code.


Sahar Ali, “Acid attack victim demands justice,” BBC News, 28 July 2003.

“It was like burning in hell,” says Zarina Ramzan, recalling how acid burned through her upper body, melting away the skin and flesh on her face, neck and chest.

Just over a year ago, in the early hours of 7 July, a man sneaked into her home and poured the acid over her face.

Her neighbour, Nazar Hussain, is now on trial for attempted murder. Prosecutors say he wanted revenge because Zarina had rejected his advances.

On that hot July night, Zarina had drifted off to sleep around 0300, only to awake with a burning sensation on her face and upper body.

“I’m on fire!” wailed the 18-year-old girl, a wife and mother of a four-month-old baby, as her face began to dissolve.

‘Alarming increase’

Dozens of women are burnt by acid every year in Pakistan, a form of violence that is on the rise.

Last year a report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said: “Particularly alarming was the soaring rate of cases of mutilation by the pouring of acid over women, in a crime that acted to scar them permanently, both physically and emotionally.”

There were 46 cases of acid attacks on women reported in Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, in 2002.

Violence against women is common among the poor and uneducated, many of whom live in feudal societies.

Although acid attacks only account for a fraction of the overall incidents of violence against women, they are probably the most monstrous.

Acid mutilates and maims the victim, condemning her to lifelong isolation and emotional anguish.

This form of violence is most common in Punjab, Pakistan’s agricultural heartland.

It is most likely to occur in the summer, as happened to Zarina, when acid is used for agricultural purposes.

Women’s activist Shahnaz Bukhari was curious as to why most attacks occur in the summer. She found that certain seeds sown during summer are first soaked in acid.

Ms Bukhari runs the Progressive Women’s Association in Islamabad which, since 1988, has helped burn victims and highlighted the issue nationally and internationally.

‘Worse than death’

The rise in cases of acid burns is mainly because it is easy to get.

A bottle for domestic use can be bought for just 20 rupees, less than half a US dollar.

And the attack has devastating long-term consequences.

“A woman burnt by acid is like a living corpse,” says Uzma Saeed, a lawyer working with a women’s non-government organisation in Lahore.

“Those who commit such vengeful acts seek to sentence their victims to a plight worse than death.” Zarina Ramzan has already undergone 11 plastic surgery operations.

Her eyelids have melted together. The acid burned out her right eye.

But she can see light through her left one, raising hopes that she may be able to see again.

Her nose is dissolved but surgery allows her to breathe through two slits where her nostrils once were.

Her lower lip melted down to her chin in the attack.

It has been detached surgically to allow her to eat.

“We are poor, ignorant people,” laments Zarina.

“We didn’t know that washing away the acid would have meant less damage.”

It is the abject poverty of acid burn victims, and indeed women victims of other kinds of violence, that has kept the issue off the main political agenda.

“This is an issue only of the poor, that’s why nothing has been done,” comments Shahnaz Bukhari.

“For the policy makers, these people do not exist.”

‘No improvement’

Pakistan’s current parliament has an unprecedented number of women legislators.

Prior to the general election last October, women were also given 33% representation in local government as part of President General Pervez Musharraf’s devolution plan.

But campaigners say this unprecedented increase in female representation in parliament and local government has not translated into any improvement in women’s status.

“I have brought to light 39 cases of violence against women since the elections,” protests Ms Bukhari.

“What have the women legislators done in the last eight months?”

As for Zarina, she held her own demonstration outside parliament under intense sun hoping for justice.

“Other than coming nearer to get a closer look, everyone just walked away,” she complains.

She eventually got help from the Crisis Centre for Women in Distress in Islamabad.

It is one of three such centres set up by the Ministry of Women’s Development to help female victims of domestic violence and is financing her treatment at an Islamabad hospital.

“Tell her doctor to operate on her eye first so she can see,” says Zarina’s grandmother.

But as well as medical treatment, Zarina also wants justice. “He has destroyed my youth,” she says, referring to her alleged attacker.

“I do not want him to be released from jail.”