ISLAMABAD: The reporting of acid attacks has significantly increased in Pakistan, which shows an encouraging trend to further break the ice and denounce violence against women and girls. Additionally, the performance of the police has improved after the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill was 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 in a meeting arranged by Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) Pakistan in collaboration with the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and Australian Aid.
PML-N MNA Marvi Memon was the chief guest at the meeting, while NCSW chairwoman chaired the panel of discussion.
MNA Kishwer Zehra, Provincial Commission on the Status of Women (KP) Chairwoman Neelum Toru and Acid Survivors Foundation Pakistan Chairwoman Valerie Khan Yusufzai were also among the panellists.
Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan Peter Heyward also attended the meeting.
The event was attended by various stakeholders from different areas of the country, including officials of law enforcement agencies, lawyers, doctors, members of civil society, media persons and acid survivors themselves.
NCSW Chairwoman Khawar Mumtaz acknowledged improvements in the situation of acid crime in the country and attributed them to a stronger mobilisation of citizens to denounce this worst form of gender-based violence.
However, she also insisted on meeting the remaining challenges and the need to work on data and build up synergies like the ones proposed by the ASF Pakistan.
According to the report, the ASF intervention increased reporting of acid crimes from 1 percent in 2012 to 71 percent 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 data is still required.
Marvi Memon, while acknowledging the improvements, said, “Since 2010, Pakistan has come a long way and these improvements needed to be celebrated.”
“Nonetheless, there was still a long way to go,” she said, adding that the Comprehensive Acid and Burn Crime Bill must be passed.
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,” she said, adding, “It is urgent that the federal and provincial governments ensure stronger protection to Pakistani citizens.”
She said that Pakistani had inspired many other countries to address acid violence such as Columbia and India, but positive steps such as establishing burn centres and social rehabilitation centres, or medical boards, must be part of a legislative framework to be sustained and institutionalised.
Peter Heyward congratulated the ASF and all stakeholders for those improvements and reiterated Australia’s commitment to supporting ASF actions.