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
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.