ISLAMABAD: There is a need to have effective laws besides providing medical and rehabilitative assistance to acid attack victims along with brining about a change in social and cultural attitudes.
Participants at a seminar— Strategies to fight acid crime in Pakistan—organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Saturday, insisted that a second tier of court should be established to hear cases of acid crime victims.
They said compensation and rehabilitation services were not included in the legal framework and stressed that there should be a funding and monitoring mechanism to ensure accountability for acid burn victims.
Along with have a new medical team for victims, they should also be given trauma counselling services and psychological treatment to overcome the incident. There should be burn units at divisions in the provinces, they further stressed.
Acid Survival Foundation of Pakistan Chairperson (ASFP) Valerie Khan said that Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa till date has no burn unit. Sharing details with participants, she said educating the masses, gender equality and putting water on sulphuric acid and chlorides are some of the preventive measures.
She further said that the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences has one of the best burn centres in the world.
She highlighted that in 2012, only one per cent of acid burn cases were registered but after the involvement of legal officials and police, the number has increased to 70 per cent.
Legal expert Aftab Iqbal said the law has been promulgated but the police still do not know how to treat acid victims. “Due to this lack of awareness only two per cent of acid attack victims succeed in getting justice while the remaining 98 per cent of cases are never adjudicated”.
He said a special law should be promulgated to compensate acid victims and survivors of acid attacks as well as having a law to protect witnesses.
According to an HRCP report, 150 to 4,000 cases of acid attacks are reported in Pakistan every year, of which 80 per cent victims are women, and almost 70 per cent are younger than 18. Acid attacks also cause social and economic exclusion and victims have limited access to legal recourse, and medical and psychological assistance. Pakistan is among the few countries that passed specific legislation related to acid crimes in 2011.
Before 2011, acid related cases were treated as a form of domestic violence and were taken up under the Domestic Violence Act 2009. Now the act is a criminal, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence that is punishable with minimum 14 years imprisonment and up to Rs1 million fine to cover the victims medical expenses. Although the new legislation is a promising step but implementation is lagging; experts highlighted several shortcomings in the 2011 law and pinned their hopes on pending legislation in at least two provinces to address the flaws.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2015.