Post by Katie Rosenthal
A recent Silver Lining blog focussed on legislative progress in ending violence against women in Pakistan. This week’s blog returns to the country, and features a new campaign to end a specific manifestation of gender based violence.
Pakistan’s is a traditionally patriarchal society, where the gaining of freedoms and rights for women has been greeted by discomfort in some traditional communities. Using acid to disfigure women has become a worrying trend in the country, with over 8,500 acid attacks, forced marriages and other forms of violence against women reported in 2011. As a response, a new law was introduced last year to criminalise acid attacks, which carry a penalty of 14 years in jail. A recent BBC report looked at the prominence and devastating effects of acid attacks, noting that the vast majority of cases do not go to court and victims face multiple surgery and cosmetic procedures to combat attacks. The article also emphasises that many victims go on to commit suicide following acid attacks. Most attacks occur in the South Pujab, and areas with low education levels. Acid attacks generally follow domestic disputes, which cannot be settled rationally or peacefully.
Devcom-Pakistan, a development communications network, this month launched a new advocacy campaign to raise awareness of acid attacks and relevant legislation. Riffat Ara Baig, Programme Coordinator explained that whilst Pakistan’s Parliament has now passed important legislation, effective implementation would only be possible if women are well informed. The campaign opened with a screening of a documentary to house maids in low education communities. This will be followed up by joint sessions with males and females of the same families and communities. Lawyers will be invited to the sessions to explain about the legal repercussions of acid attacks. Attendees will be encouraged to work to end gender based violence, specifically acid attacks. Efforts will also be made to reach university students and engage them in the issue.