There are currently at least two draft proposals currently before the National Assembly, recommending steps to control acid crimes. The Acid Control and Burn Crime Prevention Bill 2010 was tabled over a year ago and focuses on controlling the sale and production of corrosive substances. Another Bill was tabled by the Acid Survivors Foundation in June last year. Tragically, there seems to have been little progress in moving these forward.
Contrary to popular opinion, many of the victims are men and even children, but women, of course, remain the prime sufferers. According to NGO figures, 46 per cent of victims are women, 36 per cent men and the remainder children. In 2010, there were at least 115 attacks against women. Girls as young as 10 or 11 have been targeted, most often to extract revenge from their families over matrimonial issues or other disputes. The notion that women are ‘property’, who must conform to a specific pattern of behaviour appears to be a factor in many of these attacks. As is the case with other crimes, especially those perpetrated against women, the failure to punish the culprits acts to encourage under offenders. Long delays in courts, even when an assailant is apprehended, adds to the problem.
It seems obvious that we need urgent action, given the degree of physical and emotional suffering inflicted by such attacks. As is proposed in the legislation lying before parliament, tighter controls are needed on the sale of acids. The laws that exist need to be enforced. This had indeed happened over past decades but, as with so much else, the state’s ability to continue to do so has slipped. We live in a highly brutalised environment where incidents of the kind reported from time to time in the media take place with increasing frequency. The issue is one that needs to be taken up by our legislators without further delay.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2011.