In Pakistan, like in many other South Asian countries, honor is a virtue that is not only valued but demanded from society, especially from women. Women who “dishonor” their families face severe consequences at the hands of a strongly patriarchal society who continues to see women secondary to men.
A new report from the AGHS Legal Cell has found that violence against women in the form of burning and acid attacks is on the rise in the country. Women who are seen as dishonoring their families are often the targets of these attacks.
Walking in public with a man who is unrelated to you could elicit an attack for it is often presumed that the woman is committing adultery. Fleeing an arranged marriage or a relationship where a woman is unhappy or being abused is another common reason for the attacks.
According to the report, from April to June of this year more than 220 women reported being burned, 40 of whom died as a result of their injuries which can be extensive. When acid is thrown in a person’s face, skin tissue melts on contact exposing the bone below the flesh that may also dissolve from the acid. If acid reaches the eyes, they are permanently damaged often leaving survivors with the use of only one or no eyes.
What’s worse? According to the report women are not being given appropriate medical care and few seek legal action after being attacked. Many cases are also not even reported to police so the actual numbers of victims are far worse than we think.
“Violence against women in Pakistan is endemic,” Nisha Varia, deputy director of women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch told The Media Line.” “We try to apply pressure so that the government recognizes these crimes, prosecutes the perpetrators and provides services to the victims.”
Acid and burn attacks are also not only isolated in Pakistan. It is also common practice in Bangladesh, India, and other South Asian countries. In Bangladesh, the Acid Survivors Foundation has been working for nearly ten years to eliminate acid violence in the country where there is currently an acid attack every two days. A similar organization also exists in Pakistan.
Violence against women exists everywhere. We know this. I also know that I can no longer sit idly as governments around the world fail to protect these victims.
Photo from http://raquelevita.wordpress.com/2008/08/22/pakistan-acid-attack-victims-find-beauty-in-themselves/ (originally from MSNBC, August 2008)
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