ISLAMABAD: The introduction of comprehensive legislation on acid crime, prevention and rehabilitation of acid burn victims is the need of the hour. This, along with proposing severe punishment for the perpetrators was discussed at a conference on Saturday.
The forum was arranged by Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) in collaboration with Gender Justice and Protection project of United Nation Development Programme (UNDP).
The speakers said that the distribution of acid should be controlled and a mechanism be evolved to prevent its unlawful sale.
They said the government, following the orders of Supreme Court of Pakistan, should collaborate with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to propose a funding mechanism for its implementation.
They also said that a monitoring mechanism be evolved to ensure the law’s enforcement at all levels. Human rights activist and National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW) Executive Member Dr Fouzia Saeed said that formulation of legislation requires solid research to identify problems, so that their solutions can be chalked out.
She added that the commission in consultation with all the stakeholders has critically reviewed the draft of the bill and other private bills presented earlier in the parliament.
The government is working to finalise two separate bills for “Acid Crimes” and “Acid Prevention”, she added, and will integrate the private bills into them.
Dr Fouzia said that all women parliamentarians should support the legislation as it is imperative for them to live dignified lives. The unanimity for adoption of the bill will help ensure its implementation both at federal and provincial levels, she said.
Presenting an overview of acid violence in Pakistan Zegham Khan, an activist, said gender violence is often defined as structural violence and acid burning is the worst form of violence against women.
He said, “Besides defining acid abuse clearly in the law, we are committed to establish special courts that will be gender sensitized for dealing with such cases. The offender must be brought to task and such crimes should be non-bailable. Acid’s marketing should be monitored and made available only at outlets that have licenses.”
According to statistics, 46 per cent of the victims are women, 36 per cent men and the remaining are children. The victims of acid burns not only suffer physical and medical complications but also experience psychological trauma, he said.
The perpetrators must compensate the victims under the law, he recommended.
The Acid Survivors Trust International Chairperson Dr John Morrison said that acid violence is a global phenomenon, committed not only in developing countries like Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Uganda, Cambodia and Pakistan but also in the United Kingdom.
The government should play its role in bringing legislation, warning the perpetrators that the state will not tolerate these crimes.
ASF Chairperson Valerie Khan said that the foundation is working for an acid specific law in Pakistan since 2006. The foundation is providing free rehabilitation to the victims of acid burns.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2011.