Say No to Acid Violence!
By Sana Masood

Jan. 5, 2010

Acid violence is an outrageous form of torture which involves throwing of corrosive acid at the victim’s face. This not only causes face disfigurement but also has a catastrophic effect on the victim’s life. It is one of the worst forms of domestic violence and is most often directed towards women. However, children are often the collateral damage of this kind of violence. The effects of acid violence include serious physical harm (loss of eyes and limbs, corrosion of organs, and subsequent infections such as septicaemia and gangrene). In addition to the inevitable psychological trauma, survivors also face social isolation and ostracism that further damages their self-esteem and gravely undermines their personal and professional future.
Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) has been working on acid violence issues since 2006 with the support of a UK-based organisation, Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI). The ultimate goal of the organization is to eliminate acid violence from Pakistan and promote human rights of the survivors through a peaceful democratic process. Acid Survivors Foundation also provides medical, psycho-socio rehabilitation, legal and socio-economic rehabilitation to acid burn survivors.
Very recently, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mr Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has also asked about the phenomenon of acid violence, before issuing a decision in a suo moto case (NAILA FARHAT) on November 20, 2009.
The Chief Justice has asked the Government to pass Acid Crime Prevention Act which would specifically deal with acid attack cases in terms of prevention & punishment, and the Acid Control Act, to regulate the sale and purchase of acid, as done by Bangladesh in 2002. Furthermore, he has also asked the government to provide free medical treatment to these acid burn victims and help them in terms of provision of legal aid and rehabilitation facilities. He has appreciated the work of Acid Survivors Foundation for providing free medical treatment, psycho-socio rehabilitation, legal aid and assistance & socio-economic rehabilitation to the acid burn victims.
The punishment granted to the accused in the above mentioned case was twelve years and three months along with a fine of 1.2 Million Rupees, which is higher than that stated in the Pakistan Penal Code. This initiative taken by the Supreme Court provides a strong basis for advocating and lobbying for the need of laws dealing specifically with the issue of acid violence, the prevention of such crimes in future, and the need to regulate the sale & purchase of acid. In addition, it is the first time that an acid attack case has reached the Supreme Court which is a big achievement not only in terms of this case, but for future cases as well as it will encourage other victims to come forward and seek justice through an effective and timely judicial process, and enable other courts to grant a higher punishment keeping the Supreme Court precedent in mind.

A number of Parliamentarians like Marvi Memon (PML-Q), Begum Shenaz Wazir Ali and Anusha Rehman (PML-N) have also come forward to advocate for this cause and have taken upon the challenge to draft a bill (to be called the Acid Control & Acid Crime Prevention Act 2009), with a team of legal experts, which would specifically deal with the issue of acid violence.
Currently, as there is no law in Pakistan that specifically deals with the issue of acid violence. The acid attack cases are tried under Sections 324, 332 & 335 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Sections 332 & 335 talk about hurt and disfigurement but do not define disfigurement specifically and comprehensively. Section 336 states the punishment for causing disfigurement which is up to ten years. The new Act will not only define disfigurement but will also increase the punishment up to life imprisonment which will act as a strong deterrent to prevent acid attacks in future. It will also make the perpetrator liable for all the medical expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person, and in case of failure of payment by the accused, the Act makes it obligatory for the court to make the accused pay the compensation money to the victim.
The second aspect of Acid Violence, which by far, is also the biggest reason why acid violence is so common in our part of the world, is the easy accessibility of acid to the general public, particularly in Southern Punjab. The current legislation which is closely but not sufficiently related to the regulation of acid availability is, Poisons Act 1919, which only caters to the ‘sale’ of poisons and not its ‘purchase’. Moreover, the punishment for a breach of unauthorised sale under the Act of 1919 is only Rs.500 because of which till date the sellers of unauthorised sale of poisons (including acid) sell unsealed quantities without any fear of check and control. The new Act, on the other hand, not only defines poisons widely (to cover all categories of harmful substances or chemicals) and caters to the ‘sale and regulation of poisons’, but also increases the punishment for the unauthorised ‘sale and purchase of poisons’. In addition, it also introduces an extensive and thorough system of licensing to monitor the sale and purchase of all poisons which are currently accessible by the general public and makes it obligatory for the cancellation and suspension of licences in case these substances are sold/purchased by someone who is not authorised to do so.
The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act 2009 acts as an important tool to safeguard the rights of acid burn survivors and the people of Pakistan in general against atrocious and heinous crimes. If passed by the parliament it will be evident that our country is now committed to fight for and protect acid survivors’ human rights and the rights of women and children in general, for an Acid Violence Free Pakistan!

Written & compiled by:
Sana Masood
Legal Coordinator
Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), Pakistan.


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