ISLAMABAD - Acid attacks reporting has significantly increased in Pakistan which shows an encouraging trend to further break the silence and denounce violence against women and girls. Additionally, the performance of the police has improved after the acid crime bill passed on December 12, 2011.
This was revealed in a report titled: Fostering Effective Implementation of Pro Human Rights Laws: Criminal Law Amendment Act 2011 (Act XXV), an Example of Good Practice.”
The report was presented at a meeting arranged by the Acid Survivors Foundation Pakistan in collaboration with the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and Australian Aid.
Marvi Memon of PML-N MNA was the chief guest while Chairperson of the NCSW chaired the panel discussion. Kishwer Zehra of MQM MNA, Neelum Toru, Chairperson Provincial Commission on the Status of Women (KP) and Valerie Khan Yusufzai, Chairperson Acid Survivors Foundation Pakistan were also amongst the panelists. Peter Heyward, Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, also attended the meeting.
Chairperson NCSW Khawar Mumtaz acknowledged improvement in institution of acid crime in the country and attributed them to a stronger mobilization of citizens to denounce this worst form of gender-based violence. However, she insisted on meeting the remaining challenges and the need to work on data and build up synergies like the ones proposed by ASF.
According to the report, ASF intervention-increased reporting of acid crimes from 1 per cent in 2012 to 71 per cent in 2013.
All participants underlined that awareness campaigns to challenge discriminatory and patriarchal mindsets, as well as transfer of knowledge, were crucial to achieve positive results in fostering law implementation.
It may be recalled here that judges now tend to punish far more severely in a shorter timeframe and the average conviction has gone up to 20 years as compared to 6 to 10 years before 2011.
According to the report, many survivors still do not have sufficient or adequate access to medical and rehabilitation services, 65 percent of the victims still could not have access to justice in 2013 and national consolidated the data is still required. Memon while acknowledging the improvements said,” Since 2010, Pakistan has come long way and these improvements needed to be celebrated,” adding, “Nonetheless there was still a long way to go and Comprehensive Acid and Burn Crime Bill” must be passed.”
Chairperson ASF Valerie Khan called upon the government to lead the way and pass the Comprehensive Acid and Burn Crime Bill. “We are ready to provide technical help to review the comprehensive bill,” said she adding,” It is urgent that the federal and provincial governments ensure stronger protection to Pakistani citizens.”
She said that Pakistani has inspired many other countries to address acid violence such as Columbia and India but positive steps such as establishing burn centers and social rehabilitation centers, or medical boards must be part of a legislative framework to be sustained and institutionalized.
Australian HC Peter Heyward congratulated ASF and all stakeholders for those improvements and reiterated Australia’s commitment to support ASF action.