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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Can a Man-Made Law Stop Acid Violence Against Women in Pakistan?

Bashiran Bibi, Pakistani Woman Victim of Acid Attack
From the Express Tribune in Pakistan comes a report by Sahar Bandial on acid violence and how to combat it:

Horrific memories have a staying power, easily rekindled upon the appropriate trigger. The tragic end of Fakhra Younus in Rome last month was one such trigger. It took me back to the summer afternoon, some years ago, at the Mayo Hospital in Lahore: a dark room with a hospital bed covered by a makeshift protective tent and a muffled voice emanating from behind. A disfigured limb reached out; I stepped closer to encounter a persona, not recognisable in its physical form as human, melted away indiscriminately by the corrosive acid thrown on her by her spouse.

Words of comfort and promises of redress and legal action offered by the team of aid workers I accompanied did little to move the maimed woman, who had resigned to the dictates of fate, uninterested in seeking justice. The image is hard to forget and evokes horror, disgust, guilt and insecurity even today. It epitomises the capacity of evil, the frailty of life and the desperate dependability of women on patriarchal social norms and structures that remain untouched by a passive, and at times, complicit legal system.
Our legislature appears cognisant of the evil of acid violence and has taken the initial steps to redress it. The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act passed last December — through the insertion of Section 336-A and 336-B in the Pakistan Penal Code — has explicitly identified “causing hurt by dangerous means or substance”, including any corrosive substance or acid, as a crime.
It also provides for stringent punishment, extending to life imprisonment. However, the definitional clarity brought by the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act is not a sufficient response to the incidence of acid crimes in Pakistan, where over 700 cases of acid violence have been reported since 2006.
Read the rest here: How to Combat Acid-Violence.
The article concludes with, “Only within a more comprehensive legal system can the state’s criminalisation of  ‘hurt by acid’ and its commitment to gender equality and elimination of gender violence bear fruit.”
Sahar and others believe that stricter legislation and punishment will change the desires of a man to punish a woman, when he has been taught all his life that women are inferior and can be punished for not obeying his commands or for shaming him.  But will this law be adhered to and will there actually be dire consequences for the perpetrator?
I hope Shahar and the women of Pakistan obtain their objectives.  But under Islamic sharia law, a woman will still be punished and beaten by her husband; she still is not recognized as his equal.  There is nothing Shahar or any other person, male or female, can do to change the laws of Allah. As long as sharia laws exist, the causes, the desires that are causes for the acid attacks, will remain as the foundation for the violence against women no matter what form it takes.
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