Acid Throwing and Forced Marriage Now Illegal in Pakistan

A historical moment for Pakistan, whose Senate passed two new bills: The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010 and The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Bill 2008. This makes the following illegal in Pakistan. 

• Forcing a woman into marriage for settling a dispute to be a non- bailable offense

• Bartering a woman in such a way to be punishable by three to five years jail and a fine of Rs0.5 million

• Depriving a woman of her inheritance can lead to imprisonment of between five and 10 years or a fine of Rs1 million or both

• Forced marriages (other than those for settling disputes) to be punishable by between three and 10 years jail and a fine of Rs0.5 million

• Forcing a woman to “marry” the Holy Quran to result in a jail term of three to seven years and a fine of Rs0.5 million

Not only are these activities illegal, but punishable; the only question that remains is whether or not law enforcement and prosecutors will enforce the bills. Amazingly not everyone agreed on protecting women from such crimes before it was unanimously passed on December 11, 2011, the bills could not get passed for three years!

Bride Burnings: Western wedding culture and marriage are full of sexist issues and inequalities, but nothing compares to injustices and atrocities of bride burning and acid throwing. Bride burnings occur mostly within Pakistan and Southern Asia, particularly in India where it is thought that around 5,000 a year occur[1]. This act is committed by a male spouse and his family who feel shamed by the small size of a dowry or insulted because a dowry fails to be made in full. In India, asking or paying for a dowry is actually illegal under the 1961 Anti-Dowry Act, but it is rarely enforced. Orchestrated as an accident, the male spouse and/or his family members take kerosene, poor it over the bride and light her afire. The act is a form of punishment, permanent public sign of disgrace, but the real goal is murder.

Acid Throwing: Acid throwing occurs in many countries within South-East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, the West Indies and the Middle East. Acid is used as a form of punishment or as an honor killing tool. It is most often against women who are accused of premarital sex (even if it was the result of rape), turning down proposals or sexual advances, dowry demands, or just not meeting the standards of wifedom.

The women who are subject to these types of attacks typically have very little legal and cultural protection. The attacks often maim, disfigure and blind them. These inhumane acts are illegal, but because it is socially and cultural sanctioned in order to save a family’s “honor” it often goes unpunished. Sometimes the pressure to meet certain cultural standards, or the verbal and physical abuse in a groom’s home so bad that women actually turn to burnings and acid throwing in order to take their own lives.

Marriage is a universal tradition. While many of us have little to worry over other than if the flowers will arrive on time or all the invitations are accounted for, as global citizens our responsibility is to be aware and help ameliorate crimes against humanity. We can help protect women and other victims by practicing traditions without their inherent sexism and human rights violations (these exist in our own Western traditions today too, take for instance gay marriage issues). By educating ourselves, eradicating obsolete and unfair practices, we help progress the institution as a whole at home and abroad. To learn more about what you can do to help click here.

Other FB related articles:

The Young and the Betrothed – Child Brides

West Meets & Marries East: The Mail Order Brides Industry

To read more of The Express Tribune Article click the following: Women-specific bills passed: Fourteen-year jail term for acid-throwers – The Express Tribune.

[1] Accurate statistics are very hard to attain, since many crimes go unreported.

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