Punishing acid throwers

Published: April 8, 2012

Only equal application of the law will send the signal that acid attacks are a heinous crime. PHOTO:FILE

In 2010, a young woman threw acid on her ex-fiance’s father to protest his alleged disapproval of the match. With meagre restrictions on the sale of acid and a poor record of incarcerating perpetrators, it was only a matter of time until acid attacks became a viable means of resolving disputes in Pakistan. The above case demonstrates that acid attacks have become so easy to get away with now that even women, who have traditionally been the victims of acid crimes, have begun using this destructive act to settle scores
with men.

In a cruel and ironic twist though, the law seems to be coming down harder on the women who commit acid attacks as opposed to the men. On April 5, an Anti-Terrorism Court in Faisalabad sentenced the same young woman to 34 years in prison for her crime. Punishing this young woman for her crime is not unjust in itself, for the law must be applied to men and women equally. Even the recently passed Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill do not limit itself to identifying only men as potential perpetrators.  However, when we compare this 34-year sentence to the scores of acid crimes committed by men against women that go unpunished, we find ourselves asking questions: When was the last time stern action taken and such a long sentence was awarded to a man for throwing acid on a woman?

Inevitably, we end by comparing this case to other high profile acid crimes — the case of Fakhra Younus, for example, or of Zakia and Rukhsana featured in the Oscar-winning documentary “Saving Face”. Why weren’t the culprits taken to task in these cases? The fact is, as the weaker sex in Pakistan, women will be victimised at the expense of men whether they are guilty or innocent. Jailing one woman an as easy target for an acid crime will not prove the strength or swiftness of our new legislation on acid attacks. Only equal application of the law will send the signal that acid attacks are a heinous crime that an individual must be punished for, regardless of gender, affiliations or religion.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Apr 8, 2012 - 1:09AM

    Somehow, justice in our beloved land is still massively dependent on/influenced by the gender/religion/class/creed and of course social standing of the perpetrator. That in itself negates the very spirit of justice. Such blatant discrimination must be done away with.

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  • MarkH
    Apr 8, 2012 - 2:21AM

    There is one positive aspect to that woman being given that term. Laws are talk until they’re enforced and that law didn’t specify gender differentiation. Now that they have actually enforced it to such a degree they have set a bar for themselves. Right now, all the protests to the court will have little acknowledgement by those they target. The next time a man throws acid on a women is the opportunity to be heard. The court will not be able to make a single excuse for themselves using any creative wording now that the bar has been placed.
    What seems to be peoples primary issue is something they probably just never wanted to acknowledge in the first place. The calls for change and the implementation of that change has never been a way to vindicate and get justice for past victims. They’re tragic stories that will always be tragic stories and there’s simply no happy ending. Change is a starting point for future action. Not a means to fix the past. It’s tragic and true. I don’t even like being the one to say it. But, that is how it is.

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  • Mir nawaz
    Apr 8, 2012 - 7:29PM

    We are proud of being Muslims but on the other side we are not yet able to understand and interpret the true teaching of Islam.
    Islam is a religion of peace, harmony and equality so this means Women has the same right as men.

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  • Parvez Amin
    Apr 27, 2012 - 7:31AM

    Balance in punishment is an unexplored option. Will throwing acid on a person conviceted of the same crime be a punishment acceptable to our society? Will such a punishment act as a deterrant? Does it reflect Islamic justice – an eye for an eye?

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