Pakistan: Acid Attack Survivor Pushes for Acid-Throwing Legislation
Thursday, June 10, 2010 12:45 PM

Naila Farhat has made it her personal mission to pass legislation that will protect women against acid attacks. In 2003, a spurned lover threw acid on a thirteen-year-old Farhat, severely disfiguring her. Since then, her case has been a catalyst for the movement for stricter legislation regarding violence against women in Pakistan. In 2009, the Supreme Court made a landmark decision and sentenced Farhat’s perpetrators to 12 years of incarceration and ordered restitution in the amount of approximately $14,775. In the decision, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary, urged the Pakistani government to pass legislation.
In response to this recommendation, three women within the Parliament drafted a proposal which would amend current laws regarding gendered violence. The proposed law restricts the sale of industrial strength acids used in acid attacks and enhances sentences for perpetrators. Many, including Farhat, argue that this proposed law is not enough. The law deals with acid attacks in which only women and children are the victims. As 39% of acid attacks in Pakistan occur with men as victims, Farhat advocates for the law to protect all victims of acid attacks. A second criticism of the draft legislation addresses the role of law enforcement. Critics feel the role of law enforcement in regulating and watching the acid trade is vague and ambiguous, and must be strengthened for the legislation to be effective.
Farhat, with the support of multiple agencies, is working with the original drafters to amend the legislation in order to present it to the legislative assembly by July. This multi-agency push has been met with both support and criticism. The Acid Survivors Foundation and United Nations Development Fund for Women have been the most vocal supporters of the new legislation. Acid Survivors Trust International and Cornell Law School provided substantial amounts of funding. The Ministry of Women Development is performing additional research on a draft law that targets acid attacks specifically. Opponents of the amended legislation argue that the existing laws are enough; they simply must be enforced.
Acid attacks in Pakistan are on the rise. Sulfuric acid is commonly used in the textile industry and can be purchased for as little as $0.23 per liter. The prevalence of such attacks is attributed to the affordability and accessibility of acid, the absence of a framework to regulate and monitor the acid trade, and other socio-economic factors.  

Compiled from: Women Intensify Push to Pass Law Against Acid Attacks, Inter Press Service (31 May 2010).