Acid throwing attacks are extremely violent crimes by which the perpetrators of the crime seek to inflict severe physical and mental suffering on their victims. This form of violence is often inflicted on women. The most common reasons for such attacks are domestic violence, refusal of marriage proposal, denial of sexual advance etc. The acid is usually thrown at the victim’s face with the intent of disfiguring the woman in revenge for her refusing the advances of the perpetrator. Racial and cultural reasons include failure of a girl to bring dowry, political rivalries, and land disputes. Such attacks may also take place during robbery. Acid attacks are premeditated because the perpetrator first obtains the acid, carries it with him/her and stalks the victim before executing the act.
The main cause is the absence of proper legislation on acid crimes. Moreover, there is no law to regulate the manufacturing and supply of acids and therefore anyone has easy access to them.
The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2011 (Criminal Law Second Amendment Act, 2011) made amendments in Pakistan Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code to punish perpetrators of acid crimes by clearly including acid crimes in the definition of hurt. The definition now includes “hurt by dangerous means or substance, including any corrosive substance or acid to be crimes”.
Through an amendment in Section 336-B of Pakistan Penal code, Punishment of offenders under this Act can extend up to life imprisonment.
The Act makes it mandatory for the offender to pay a fine which may not be less than five hundred thousand rupees.
There is also a punishment for unauthorized sellers. This is:
- On first conviction, an imprisonment of one year or a fine of a hundred thousand rupees or both.
- On second and subsequent conviction, an imprisonment of two years or a fine of two hundred thousand or both.
However, this Act alone is not sufficient to prevent acid crimes. It needs to be accompanied by mechanisms for effective investigation and prosecution. In order to ensure that the perpetrator gets punished and the victim gets support, the government should pass the Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2012 — which is a follow-up to the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act — This Act asks the government to introduce and enforce appropriate measures for the prevention, protection, investigation, prosecution and punishment of acid crimes. This means putting in place an effective reporting system and an emergency response scheme that permits and trains investigation and law enforcement agencies to respond to acid violence. The law should also provide for monitoring and enforcement of protective orders, forbidding perpetrators or potential perpetrators from contacting victims and providing shelter where victims may seek refuge. The proposed law regulates investigation and trial of acid violence and provides free legal aid and medical and rehabilitation services to victims. For a meaningful reduction in acid crimes it is necessary for the state to undertake these suggested measures to prevent commission of the crime and to protect victims.