- How many acid attacks must take place before something is done to prevent them?
Three girls in Gujrat, two of them sisters and all fellow students at university, were critically hurt when acid was thrown over them at a bus stop a few days ago. Their attackers were three men on a motorbike. One of the men was the uncle of the two sisters who were hurt, the other his friend. These two escaped while the third man was caught and handed over to the police.
The reason for the attack was that one of the victims had refused a proposal of marriage.
All three girls were taken to hospital with severe burns.
According to a report in one of the newspapers, ‘between 150 to 400 cases of acid attacks are reported in Pakistan every year. As many as 80 per cent of the victims are women, and almost 70pc are below 18’.
How many attacks must take place before something is done to prevent them?
As horrifying as the attack was a comment following the report in one of the English newspapers, a comment that has since been removed. The comment said: ‘Were they accompanied by male relatives? If not, they deserved it.’ That comment had also been ‘recommended’ by other readers.
Deleting the comment was probably required, since it was, to put it mildly, inappropriate, but deleting it will not remove the attitude. It is such attitudes that cause such attacks, and like a weight tied around a body, sink the country to the bottom of a murky pond. Please don’t point out such attacks happen elsewhere too. That does not excuse what happens here, nor are we in a position to point fingers.
The illustrious person behind the comment lives in an imaginary place where it is required and possible for every woman to have a male protector. It is not required, nor is it always possible. The commenter also missed the fact that one of the attackers was an uncle of one of the victims. Therefore, since uncles invariably tend to be male and related, a male relative did accompany her, and he was the one to attack her.
In other similar cases, the attacker is often a brother, a husband, father or another male relative. Earlier this year a man in Malakand threw acid on his wife and daughter for example. These attackers possess a twisted sense of honour, and are driven to act by something the victim does that is supposed to have damaged that honour. Marrying the man of her choice, for example. Therefore the woman must either be killed or defaced to repair that damage. This is called an ‘honour’ killing. It is time it is called something else, because labels matter.
The rest of the narrative consists of the usual drivel:
‘The Punjab chief minister and the inspector general of police directed the police to arrest the suspects within 24 hours.’
‘The chief minister has demanded immediate action to be taken against the perpetrators and has also called for the victims to be provided with the best medical care.’
So, in addition to being a place where such incidents take place with sickening regularity, Pakistan is also a county where the police needs to be directed to do its job, in other words to arrest criminals. It is also a place where (the CM imagines) it is possible for criminals to be caught within a randomly issued deadline. Although that ‘immediate action’ may not taken unless ordered might well be true. It is a moot point who gets at the butt end of that action though.
In addition, Pakistan, for the CM of one of its most populous provinces, is a place where he must order the best medical care for injured persons, otherwise the best medical care will be withheld.
May it be pointed out that what good medical care is available is thanks to the efforts of individuals rather that the government. It is Shaukat Khanum, the Aga Khan Hospital, the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, the Ghurki Hospital, that provide the best care, not the mismanaged government hospitals with their appalling standard of hygiene.
In a brainstorming session organised by the HRCP, it was reported that ‘As many as 98 percent of the cases filed by acid attack victims are never decided due to existence of various loopholes in the law’.
Acid has proven itself to be a weapon as much as a gun or bomb. As suggested by another reader, its sale must be monitored, and made part of a wider de-weaponisation campaign. It is not sufficient for chief ministers and inspector generals of police to ‘take notice’ of such tragedies. The public certainly notices them. The officials’ job is to act against them. Failing this, they will be failing in their job, as they have.