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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Acid attacks: What can be done?
Just over a year ago someone crept into Zarina Ramzan's home and poured acid over her face.

Her neighbour is now on trial for attempted murder. Prosecutors say he wanted revenge because Zarina had rejected his advances.

This form of violence is most common in Punjab, Pakistan's agricultural heartland, where 46 cases of acid attacks were reported last year.

In order to help and rehabilitate the victims of acid attacks an Italian charity, Smile Again, is teaming up with Depilex beauty salons from September to provide reconstructive plastic surgery.

The charity already provides help to the victims in Bangladesh and India where such attacks are common.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

This behaviour cannot be written off as a "cultural difference"...it is what happens when a diseased patriarchy leaves the fates of its women in the hands of abusive men who are little better than spoiled children! The antiquated system that perpetuates such atrocities will crumble sooner or later in this age of information. In the meantime, at-risk women should be allowed to seek asylum in other countries through those countries' embassies without going through the long processes that are currently in place. Compassion for these women should override any anti-immigrant feelings!
Sydney, USA

Prevention of acid attack on Pakistani women or women of any other nationality is most welcome, but the rape of British women is far more common in comparison and should be the natural concern of a British person. Why are you so concerned about this rare problem thousands of miles away and not about rape of women in the UK? And if you are interested in the welfare of Pakistani women in particular than poverty is their first and foremost problem.
Riaz Ahmad, UK

We need to change the Sharia law which has allowed numerous men to commit crimes against women and get away clean
Sana Asif Malik, Pakistan
I have lived all my life in Pakistan. It is not just Pakistan where women are not treated equally; this is the case all over the world. However, it is unacceptable to throw acid on a woman no matter where you live. Women in Pakistan were given a representation of 33% in the elections this time. These women were supposed to bring about changes in the laws; they were to help the cause of women liberation. Where are those women legislators?

Fact is that they haven't done anything for the last eight months. What we need is mass education and severest form of punishment for men who commit such horrible crimes. We also need to change the Sharia law in Pakistan which has allowed numerous men to commit crimes against women and get away clean. We need major educational, health and legislative reforms.
Sana Asif Malik, Pakistan

No matter how much we say that women have acquired an equal status as men we are still considered the weaker sex. The only weapon by which we can overcome this ideology is education.
Sharbani Mukerjee, Mauritius

As long as women are viewed as things and not beings in that part of the world nothing can be done. Most women in Middle East are indoctrinated to accept that it is best for them to get treated the way they are.
Saffar, USA

Zarina's neighbour needs to be severely and very publicly punished for his crime, to deter others. The sale of such acids should be banned or restricted, and also the religious leaders and newspapers must condemn these attacks, and defend the rights and liberties of women to say no.
Martin, Australia

Acid attacks on women have nothing to do with Islam or any other religion. They are a form of barbarism that can only be controlled through mass education and punitive legislation. NGOs / international organisations must bring firm and sustained pressure on the governments in South Asia to achieve this.
Somnath Mukhopadhyay, UK

People shouldn't involve religions just because Zarina Ramzan's case has occurred in a Muslim country. A crime against women has been going on for centuries in countries with various religions.
Azam Malik, USA

The plight of women in many parts of the non-Western world is far too extreme
Jim, USA
It is easy for Westerners to draw comparisons to their own culture on this issue: women's liberation was able to exist in the West because men did not react to it with such violence. I think the plight of women in many parts of the non-Western world is far too extreme to simply state that it is the women need to take responsibility for it. Men in those areas need to change their attitude towards women. However, how can this be achieved?
Jim, USA

Whilst education is the preferable solution, it can't achieve fast results. The only way to stop this quickly is by combining punishment of offenders (to deter) with education of the masses (so it's no longer tolerated). Women's rights in our country were won neither quickly nor easily, but in this day and age I would hope the momentum could be sustained to sweep the globe to show everyone that women have human rights too.
Sebastian, UK

People should not rush to judgement and claim that Islam is the source of such Barbaric treatment towards women, even though religion often helps keep occurrences like Zarina's from Happening. Human beings very often see the world in black and white terms and one must understand that different cultures will react to things in different ways. Often westerners, myself included, tend to view the world thorough glasses tinted by western ideals.
Adas, Oregon, USA

It just goes to show that once extremists begin to get a safe haven in a country such as Pakistan they can run rampant and hold the entire population hostage to their own whims. Unfortunately women and children as well as moderates both get attacked. To prevent and stop such horrendous attacks that are blatantly against human comprehension and logic they have to be taught harsh lessons. Mainly such as real justice and equal treatment of women. I have long given up on my country and am happy to leave it behind me.
Ali, Kuwait

There are number of reasons contributing to this incidents including expectation of strict social values and norms followed by women. It is important for the Pakistani women get education and awareness, and strengthen and or set (if do not exist) institutions that can voice against such attacks. I sincerely hope things get better soon with concern we raise.
Ghana Gurung, Nepal

Where is the Sharia law when it comes to such violent crimes against women??
Eddy, USA/India

The Pakistani government needs to make it clear that it will not stand by while women rights are violated
Shariq, USA
I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan and live in the US now. It is true that women are not given an equal status almost anywhere in the world, but that does not mean that Pakistanis should not punish the men who throw acid on women's faces or abuse them in any other way. It does not matter what happens in India, USA, or any other part of the world. Why shouldn't Pakistan be above the rest in every way, including human right? The Pakistani government needs to make it clear that it will not stand by while women rights are violated by uneducated, arrogant, and stupid men who call themselves Muslims and ignore the very basic teachings of Islam.
Shariq, USA

The best course of action is to take strict action against those who commit such a horrible crime; an example should be made out of them. The victims should then be taken care of medically, emotionally, and financially by the government. Last, but not the least, people should be educated that such actions should not be tolerated.
Hamza Sheikh, USA

It's not that Pakistani women let themselves be victimised and are mistreated in every part of the country. I lived my whole life in that country and can very honestly say that. Injustices against women do occur, some grave, just like any other country in the world. It's not the state of women that is the problem, it is the ignorance and superior attitude of men which should be held accountable. And every Muslim country is not some patriarchal dictatorship where the men suppress the women. Let's not forget that unlike the USA and several other western countries Pakistan has had a female head of state... twice. It is the job of every Pakistani at home and abroad to make sure by word of mouth, contacting representatives and writing for different media, to make sure that there isn't another victim like Zarina Ramzan.
Asif Khan , Pakistan

We need to have clear legislation on this issue
Islahuddin Ahmed, Karachi, Pakistan
Islam clearly asks Muslims to respect humanity and dignity. The solution is obvious. We need to educate the masses about the rights of women. And then we need to have clear legislation on this issue. This is not only an assault but a crime against humanity. The root cause of this horrible crime is that women are not valued in these societies for any reason other than status and sex. In the long term, as with most of problems of Pakistan, the solution lies in education of the masses.
Islahuddin Ahmed, Karachi Pakistan

Such events, no matter where they happen, should be condemned. But before blindly linking such events with a particular society, statistics regarding crimes in "civilized" societies should also be collected and compared. Unless it can be significantly shown that crime (against women) are a typically Pakistani phenomenon one should refrain from labelling a particular society with a demerit.
Muhammad Zeyad Amin, Pakistan

An eye for an eye is the solution to it. The punishment should be made public so that others with similar intentions can see that same thing can happen to them too. Since they are damn sure that at maximum they will stay in prison for some time and that too can be no problem if they have adequate resources.
Farrukh A Leghari, Pakistan

Incidents worse then these happen every day in countries like India and others, where women are buried or burnt alive with their husbands. This incident is publicized to put down Pakistan again in its human rights policies. This whole charade by the western media is very common to create disgust against a growing Muslim nation...Shame on you all.
Nadman, USA

In response to Nadman,USA: This discussion is taking place not because it has occurred in a Muslim country but because it is a serious problem in other countries too. And one is free to express that. As a Muslim myself I am ashamed to say that most Muslim countries do not follow the standards set by Sharia and, due to corruption and nepotism, people like Zarina will find it virtually impossible to get justice. On the other hand while the West may have its own problems there is a higher chance of getting justice . Lets not make it a religious issue and all of us, in our own way, must ensure that women and the weak in our society are treated humanely.
Arif Sayed, Dubai,UAE

We have to accept their culture does things differently and not judge
Rick Hedley, Los Angeles
This is nothing for the West to put its hand in. We have to accept their culture does things differently and not judge, even if we don't like it. If Pakistanis want to stop the attacks, they will. If not, it is not up to the colonial West to try and stop it. We've only made things worse wherever we've tried to stop things.
Rick Hedley, Los Angeles CA USA

To Rick Hedley, LA USA: Of course their culture does things differently, but there is a difference between judging and intervening. If that poor woman were your wife or daughter or mother I do not think you would draw much consolation from the thought that some schmuck in Islamabad lacked the courage to even say what happened was wrong.
Cliff Winkel, USA

The late James Grant, Executive Director of UNICEF, said that the next Big War will be the War Against the Apartheid of Gender. The War on Terror should include all forms of atrocities against women as an integral component, because Acid Attacks are terrorism too, though at an individual level.
AS, Maldives

Such incidents are very rare & there is too much exaggeration. We must analyze every thing with objectivity.
Sheryar, Pakistan

Crimes against women are committed everywhere, it is just not a phenomenon observed in developing third world nations like Pakistan. It is the extremity that is appalling in cases such as Zarina's and what is further appalling is the failure of the judicial system to punish the miscreant. This is because a society such as Zarina's is composed of men, by men and for men, where women are mere instruments for begetting more men. Until the women of Pakistan decided to do something about their plight, no amount of external help can stop another Zarina from being disfigured.
Anyesha Mookherjee, US

People must be taught that women have every right to have their own will
Santanu Bera, US
Hate to say this, but truly, equality of sexes is still only a western social value. The only way crimes like this could be checked is by social education of the masses. People must be taught that women have every right to have their own will. They are in no way inferior to men, and should be treated with exactly the same respect men command in these societies.
Santanu Bera, USA

It saddens me that this innocent women was a victim of such a barbaric act. This is becoming very common in south Asian countries, due to ignorance of the laws. Justice should be brought to Zarina!
Jia, US/Pakistan

The root cause of this abominable crime is that women are not valued in these societies for any reason other than status and sex. The most effective way to reduce these attacks in the short term is to make it much harder for the general public to obtain acid. If it is sold at all in markets, it should be diluted so it will not cause the devastating effects that concentrated acid causes.
Eric, USA

Women must not be looked on as mere servants
Ridwan, USA
To stop these attacks, you must change the Pakistani mentality. Women must not be looked on as mere servants to man, but as actual human beings.
Ridwan, USA

I have lived in Pakistan for almost 20 years. As far as I know of that country and the people living there, there are still local kingdoms. A Chouhdery (village representative or rich man) and his family can do anything and the police would not even write a report against them.
Yousuf Ghaznavi, Afghanistan

Attackers should be given the proper Islamic punishment for this sort of thing. That'll deter the next coward that thinks of committing such a heinous crime.
Mohamed Marikar, UK

We in the West sometimes forget the battles that were fought for civil liberties and equality by our ancestors
Keith Wright, USA
Women of these cultures allow themselves to be victimised. In all societies rights have to be fought for. The grandmothers, mothers, aunts and sisters of these poor women have taught them that they must accept this barbaric treatment. Each individual in a society must take the responsibility to "live free or die".

We in the West sometimes forget the battles that were fought for civil liberties and equality by our ancestors. The women of these cultures have the power to throw off the yoke of oppression. It will not be easy and the cost to some will be the ultimate sacrifice. But until the individual takes the responsibility to change their situation these unforgivable atrocities will continue.
Keith Wright, USA

I agree with Keith Wright. People have to stand up to things to change them. This is true for all major problems that plague people in Pakistan.
Hamid Khawaja, Pakistan

To Keith Wright: Your view is that of a typical male. You have to understand that when you have no education, no money, and children to feed, as a good mother you are not going to leave your husband no matter what he does to you. These women cannot rise up because they have nothing.
Faseeha Khan, Bangladesh

For as long as deranged psychos have access to deadly chemicals like acid this will continue. These men were raised to believe that this is an acceptable way to exact revenge for rejection. Stop selling acid and other disfiguring chemicals to the public. Enforce the law when it's broken. Don't ignore it.
Sarah M., USA

The chemical is not the root cause. It's the mentality
Arun, US
Some interesting opinions here, esp regarding control over selling acids. We must realise, however, the chemical is not the root cause. It's the mentality. Not so much that these maniacs can do this, but that they can actually get away with it. Immediate and proportionate punishment is what will address this problem. Besides, why can't these women pick up a few bottles of acid for themselves?
Arun, US

Tougher laws, impartial police investigation, speedy trial and mandatory death penalty to those found guilty will help to eliminate this menace from the Muslim society.
Wahidun Nabi, Bangladesh

This is a most disgusting and heinous crime which is totally against Islam. Islam is a religion which respects the status of women, and good treatment of women is encouraged. The men who committed this barbaric act should be put on trial and immediate justice should be carried out.
Abdullah, UK

In a society where honour killing of women is acceptable for just looking at another man's face, I don't believe anything can be done as far as acid attacks are concerned. The sad part is that in many cases woman has not even committed any Islamic crimes, and men often take advantage to gain financial advantages.
Rahul, UK

Women's rights are not ignored by the courts but by the masses
Ali, Pakistan
I find that the comments on this topic are not reflective of recent history (1/9/02) where six men were convicted of rape. Women's rights are not ignored by the courts but by the masses. To dissuade future attacks, severe punishment and penalties should be pre-determined and advertised. Women's rights activists are already embedded in small villages where lack of education and cave-man culture causes these incidents.
Ali, Pakistan

Religion clearly asks the believer to respect human life and dignity. The solution is obvious. First, the Mullahs need to educate the masses about the rights of women (we have a whole chapter on women rights in Quran). Second, we need to have clear legislation on this issue. This is not only an assault but a crime against humanity.
Tanveer Khan, Karachi, Pakistan

In a society where women are neither respected nor valued, what can be done to stop these attacks? We're talking about a culture where female babies are often killed and women who report rape are usually charged with adultery. Until the cultural climate changes and these poor women are treated as equals with men, nothing is going to change.
Shayna, USA

The solution lies in tougher laws. Acid attacks should be treated like aggravated stab wounds with the maximum punishment for the offence
Sarita Boolell, Mauritius

Legal and police protection are often luxuries enjoyed by rich urban women
Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, U.S.A.
Legal and police protection are often luxuries enjoyed by rich urban women. The long term solutions are: economic independence of women through education and employment, land redistribution in rural areas, organized labour and, above all, democracy. Representation to women in police and army, commensurate to their numbers, and military training and possession of firearms, as in Sri Lanka's Tamil areas, would also be good deterrents.
Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, U.S.A.

Something should be done to prevent easy accessibility of acid, which can be used for the most horrifying crimes.
Sarvesh KS, UK

In a long term as with most of problems of Pakistan the solution lies in education of the masses.
Shahab Khan, Pakistan

I am half Pakistani and can't believe that in this day and age the court is still ignoring such an unlawful acts. People who do this should be prosecuted in the same way as first-degree murderers.
Belkiss, USA

How is it possible to come up with a punishment for such a slaying of human rights and not to mention, respect? What is the price of the trauma, pain and anguish these poor women have to have through? Once these answers are found, we can then go about discovering a preventative method. At the moment, these women need support. How culture can continue to allow this form of emotional and physical abuse to go on? It is not right.
Jessie, age 16, Queensland, Australia

We'd see about five acid attack victims a month
Richard, Canada
I recently worked as a volunteer in a rehabilitation hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We'd see about five acid attack victims a month in our small place alone. Probably half the victims didn't have the will to survive; the majority of the rest lingered on the fringes of society, their hideous facial wounds covered by a scarf. Most often these are crimes of jealousy; sometimes they are gang and extortion-related. In France, during the 18th century, the throwing of vitriol was also a common occurrence. It's not a big problem in wealthy countries, even though acid is available and jealousies just as strong - we tend to shoot or stab people instead. The only practical solution is to change the custom through the education of society and painting the perpetrators as the lowest of the low. Otherwise, like all fashions, it will fade gradually of its own accord.
Richard, Canada

Acid throwing is just one of many appalling crimes which are carried out on a regular basis with total impunity mostly in the rural areas of the Indo-Pak sub continent. Some others are so called honour killings, forced abortions in pregnant women to avoid baby girls and so the list goes on and on. In rural areas feudal lords and the clergy enjoy a lot of respect and authority. A lot can be done in Pakistan if the Muslim clergy brings a change in their thinking and attitude.
Nasir Khan, Kuwait/Pakistan

A similar accident (maybe more than one) happened in the Russian South several years ago,. The girl was a beauty contest winner, and the attacker - a local Mafioso. Until this article I never realized that it was not an isolated accident, but a behavioural trend. I also wish I knew what happened to the attacker - was he jailed or did he manage to get away. And some people say we do not need feminism any more!
Katerina, Russia

The long term solution lies in changing the economic situation and education level of these women
Fauzia Khan, USA
As a physician who worked in Pakistan before moving out to the US, I saw many of these cases. Problems in Pakistan are many and status of women is definitely very low. This leads to honour killings, rape crimes, acid attacks and burns. The solution is not to throw blame at the government but also to do something about these women by providing them with institutions that increase their awareness and their economic power. Institutions that provide technical training education and loans etc. for small businesses. These crimes should be dealt with seriously as well. The long term solution lies in changing the economic situation and education level of these women and all women.
Fauzia Khan, USA

While acid burning is clearly abhorrent, I don't think that the death penalty, or dehumanizing the men who committed these crimes as monsters is quite the answer. Clearly, these men must be punished and punished severely and unapologetically, but I think it's important to remember that these men and the acts that they commit are products of their society. This form of violence, like all forms of violence against women reflects the value of women in society. Until the underlying male power structures are addressed, and women are valued as human beings independent of their gender, these crimes will continue no matter how severely the perpetrators are punished.

Finally, I think it is ironic that this story focuses on how tragic it is that a woman lost her beauty, as if that is much of what she has to offer. What I think is most tragic is that this woman was not valued and respected as a human being who has innumerable treasures to offer the world.
Ryan T. Mahon, Washington, DC

Such incidents are becoming common in South Asia nowadays. Acids are very Cheap & easily obtainable, and are generally kept and are largely used in middle class families for domestic purposes like toilet cleaning. Such easy access makes their use more likely in local violence like strife in the neighbourhood. Little can be done to curb the acid attacks, therefore. What can be done is to make the laws more strict and effective in punishing the culprits. I don't recommend capitol punishment for any crime. A severe life sentence is quite reasonable. In the end it's the society which has to take bold actions regarding such incidents. The offender and his family should be socially boycotted.
Sachin Vats, India

I will be emailing President Musharraf and asking him to come down hard on such people
Saj, UK
Disgraceful, Heinous, Words can't describe how i feel to think in my ancestral homeland people commit such atrocities, I sincerely hope they make an example of him and others like him. I will be emailing President Musharraf and asking him to come down hard on such people and I hope others do the same.
Saj, UK

While the thought of strong retribution may make us feel better, it will not Zarina. Her attacker should be made legally responsible for the costs of her welfare for the rest of her life. This should also be coupled with an extended period of supervised community service, preferably in a burns unit.
Nigel Lawrence, South Africa

Could you please help me get in touch with this family or the organisation that is helping Zarina get treatment, I would like to donate some money to ensure she gets continuing help? I was born and bought up in the UK and this happened to a friend of mine in Wiltshire when she was 18. She's still making a recovery after nearly 15 years, thankfully she's made a new life for herself and her daughters away from the barbaric family she grew up in and the monster that did this to her. It's a sorry world we live in, it's beyond belief that humans beings can be so cruel.
Rena Rowan, UK

Acid burn victims are also in huge number in Bangladesh
Nurul Alam Miah, Bangladesh
Acid burn victims are also in huge number in Bangladesh. The government is taking it seriously and providing death penalties to some attackers. My opinion will be to punish all of those attackers (not only a few of the attackers) to hang them or shoot them openly to death at public places.
Nurul Alam Miah, Bangladesh

Photograph after the attack is so bad that I can't see it. It hurts to see such photograph of a so beautiful lady once. Allah has given no right to anybody to spoil the life of others. In this case she was already married with one kid. What did that rascal need from her? I feel like to shoot him at sight. Allah will give him the correct punishment but my suggestion is to keep him under very bad situation of his life.
Mohammed Aqeel Ahmed, Qatar

Pakistan is a feudal traditional society where most of the population are illiterate. Islam calls for such a society to be reformed, people need education. The prophet Muhammad condemned the tradition of killing new born baby girls in pre Islamic Arabia, this custom was eradicated after Islam. The duty of all Muslims is to command the good and forbid the evil. Pakistan and all Muslim societies need to remove all un-Islamic traditions and customs.
Altaf Ismail, UK

Unfortunately there are many victims like Zarina in Bangladesh. As a Bangladeshi, I feel ashamed to admit that we have had two female prime ministers and still no improvement on such issues. I cannot fathom how they can sleep while people like them are getting traumatised? It's simply sickening.
Morshed Alam, Bangladesh

The superiority complex of the male in villages today sometimes reaches barbaric levels
Imran Sharaf, London
This is but one of the problems that the women of Pakistan face today. The superiority complex of the male in villages today sometimes reaches barbaric levels. Although, these acts are but a failure of the local justice and crime prevention system, where uneducated individuals even think about taking such extreme actions. One should also look at why the action was took place and perhaps implement a social counsel system where family problems are solved with professional help on a social level. This is why the mosques exist, so that people can discuss their problems and solve them with the help of others.
Imran Sharaf, London, UK

This is really atrocious. Unfortunately creating public awareness in countries like Pakistan and India is a slow process and cannot stem such crimes in the short run. The only way is to make the punishment very severe but at the same time government should take appropriate and strict measures that such harmful chemicals cannot be sold so freely and make the access to such things available only for professionals. This is an example of very poor or no control measures from the side of the government.
Balaji Natteri, India

Pakistan is better off without these people who commit such crimes. No mercy for them. Gen. Musharraf must take action against these crimes and do something about it NOW.
Saleem Mahmood, Pakistan

Zarina is by no means the first victim of acid attack and unfortunately won't be the last one. Such incidents are of common occurrence in Indian sub-continent but to date no sincere effort has been made at the official level to put an end to the barbaric act. It’s the people who must act together to bring a change and highlighting such issues creates an opportunity for all those appalled by the incidents come together. Sahar Ali deserves appreciation for her efforts to keep us informed and now it’s upon us to raise voices in support of the victims and demand severe punishment for the perpetrators.
Azmat Abbas, Pakistan

Culprits are frequently beyond the reach of the law
Kartik Desai, Senegal
The heinous crime of acid mutilation is not confined to "the poor and uneducated" but is just as often perpetrated by members of Pakistan's powerful feudal-clans. Unlike the case described here, the culprits are frequently beyond the reach of the law, and continue to live freely and openly threaten their victims with further torment if they dare attempt prosecution. It is appalling beyond belief that acknowledged perpetrators of these types of vicious attacks continue to breathe freely without any risk of being punished for their despicable actions.
Kartik Desai, Senegal

First of all, arrange money for the girl to get a surgery so that she may be able to come closer to a normal life. Secondly, for punishment, I agree with some of the suggestions below... "Put the attacker in acid... slowly"
Sadiq Ali Bohra, Hyderabad, Pakistan

Acid throwing on young women by dejected suitors or due to enmity are common in Bangladesh amongst the rural and poor class of people. Culprits easily manage bail due to lengthy judicial procedure and mostly get away by terrorising the victims and their family. Non-bailable warrant, speedy trial by special court and capital punishment can reduce such incidents.
Arbil Ababil, Bangladesh

Such crimes are on the increase
Anet Stuurop-Wiffen-Tallon, USA
Crimes against women like this one are still present in many countries where women have almost no human rights. This acid burning is no better or worse than the abandonment of female babies, female circumcision or rape to cure HIV. Such crimes are on the increase when one examines WHO figures. But I suspect it can also be blamed upon the level of poverty many of these young women live in anyway. Poverty breeds ignorance via little education that prevents change in values towards some non-sexist egalitarian norm. Not just women but men too need to get behind campaigns to stop this aggressive behaviour acted out upon innocent women.
Anet Stuurop-Wiffen-Tallon, USA

Such atrocities are to be condemned in strongest terms and deterrent punishment meted out to the perpetrators of such crimes. Also, law enforcing authorities in whose area such crime has been committed should be punished as well. Further, basic issues like poverty which leads to frustration, lack of counselling opportunities, religious controls bordering on chauvinism etc, should also be addressed.
Dr S Rajaram, India

As a Pakistani living in Britain this is not the first news I read with horror. The lack of education and use of Islam to oppress woman has become a common tradition in Pakistan. In a country like Pakistan where the two systems are in clash (Islam and capitalism). It's about time that the people of Pakistan demand an eye for an eye.
Tauseef Zahid, London, UK

Generally I am a proponent of following the law and working peacefully towards justice - I don't support the death penalty or physical violence against criminals. In this instance, however, I see a brutally malicious act being repeated over and over again - and feel that perhaps the only way to truly affect those considering similar barbaric acts is to make an example of those who chose to commit them. While some readers offer good alternatives, including withholding foreign aid, I think that this will only take attention away from the matter at hand and reposition it as frustration against the prying of outsiders.
Heather Sulzen, United States

This situation is horrendous and action does need to be taken to prevent its increase. The people who commit this act do need to be severely punished. However, capital punishment is not the answer. Research has shown that capital punishment does not prevent a crime from occurring. In this situation, it appears that policies to control the sale of acid, along with widespread education of how to reduce the damaged caused by acid attacks needs to be implemented.
Ellie, UK

This type of attack is worse than attempted murder
Scott, UK
This type of attack is worse than attempted murder, in that the victim will have a severely limited quality of life until they die. Although banning acid would end this type of attack, it would not solve the primary issue - abuse of women. The kind of people that commit these acts are not concerned by their method, just the end result. I think we need to get away from all the "PC" nonsense, we all know the difference between basic right and wrong - this isn't an education or social issue. If you commit the crime - suffer the consequence - let the punishment fit the crime. In a country with such human rights problems there is need for international pressure to convert these issues to actions, I'm sure most people agree with that. But when similar issues were highlighted in Iraq people tend to subvert the issue and not support the actions that are required for change.
Scott, UK

Even if all the acid were taken off the shelf as some people have suggested, I have no doubt that these sadists would find some other act of barbaric cruelty to inflict upon women. I don't believe it is a case of preventing access to these substances and forewarning punishments that will stop this behaviour so much as changes in attitude will. While ever women are seen as inferior they will be treated as such by certain men with all the vehemence only self-righteous, delusional bullies have.
Amy Brookes, age 15, England

The sole reason for increase in such cases is lack of education. If people in Pakistan are properly educated then these kinds of incidents won't happen. As far as the non-government organizations are concerned, they are just promoting themselves by highlighting such issues. They are not serious at all in solving the cases of these poor women.

For the women representation in the city and at the government level, well 99% of women representatives come from rich background and are the daughters, wives, sisters or have some other close relation with the landlords and the people who have brought Pakistan to this dreadful state.
Muhammad Khalid Qureshi, Pakistan

India (and I assume the same applies with regard to Pakistan) prides itself on a long history and "superior" culture. But widespread intolerance, discrimination, harassment, and active violence against women, ethnic and religious minorities, gays and lesbians etc, make one wonder exactly what about our culture is good, let alone superior. The act perpetrated against this poor woman is, sadly, all too common. She is physically and psychologically scarred for life because of the "culture of honour" that pervades our savage society.
M. R. Jaitly, India/USA

This inhuman and barbaric act should be condemned by all civilised people
Dr Rajinder Sehgal, Canada
The horrifying picture of Zarina with acid burns and scars over her body reveal the plight of women in male-dominated Pakistan. This inhuman and barbaric act should be condemned by all civilised people in the world. Pakistan Government must punish the culprits so that there is no repeat of this atrocity.
Dr Rajinder Sehgal, Canada

That barbaric traditional customs continue is entirely the fault of the government. Censure of barbaric practices, in any instance, needs to come from the world community, by means of the UN, and there must be appropriate sanctions to enforce the restoration of human rights so as to protect the people from becoming victims of extreme savagery. Savage customs can also be combated by programs similar to what Radio Free Europe was during the Cold War, to educate and enlighten despite any local government tendency to preserve ignorance.
Robert Morpheal, Canada

We need more such articles to create awareness and to mobilize public support against such crimes. I also wish some non-profit in the West would consider providing advanced care and treatment to the victim.
Prerna, US

The assailant should be jailed for the rest of his life time, as death sentence is equally cruel. Islam permits capital punishment, no doubt, but the judicial system should not be heartless as he is.
P. Raghavendra Rao, Oman

I have an 18 year old daughter and I can only imagine the pain that Zarina and her family are going through at this time
Barbara Wilkinson, Canada
It is totally unbelievable that such attacks are taking place against innocent young women in Pakistan. It is certainly time for something to be done about this appalling crime. The government needs to ensure that the ones who carry out such attacks are punished in such a way that will deter others. I am still in a state of shock after seeing the picture of this beautiful young woman, and the consequence of the actions of her neighbour. I have an 18 year old daughter and I can only imagine the pain that Zarina and her family are going through at this time.
Barbara Wilkinson, Canada

I am against capital punishment. But, I would strongly support capital punishment for perpetrators of this heinous crime. The people and the government of Pakistan (and that of Bangladesh, and India too) must rise to confront this atrocity with resolve and determination. Justice demands no less. The international community, particularly the donors of aid, must make progress in this area a precondition for continued financial support. A government that fails to act to protect the most vulnerable segment of its population does not deserve our tax dollars.
Dr. Anwar Islam, CANADA

It is absolutely disgusting how some men with their narrow twisted minds perceive their own self-righteous and self-glorifying rights in South Asian countries. Their indulgence in tribal laws and male supremacy with little regards to life - much less for women's lives - has always being notorious.
Randy, Malaysia

If the government of Pakistan won't do anything about this maybe international pressure will. Lots and lots of publicity to bring this disgusting practice out into the open
Veronica, Australia

What makes me different from Zarina?
Mary Hillis, Canada
That this type of violence, against women or men, goes unnoticed by a victims own government and the world as a whole, is unforgivable and inexcusable. This is not an isolated incident and it will not be the last time this will happen. What are we saying if we don't help the people in this country make a stand? I live in a free country, and can relax and feel confident that I will make it through the day unharmed, unmaimed and able to return to my family. What makes me different from Zarina? I was born in Canada. We are both women, we are both mothers and we are both wives. It shouldn't matter what country you belong to - we are all humans and have the basic human right to live in peace. All free people who take for granted the liberties we have fought for and the equal opportunities women have need to open their eyes. We need to speak up for those who can't speak for themselves due to circumstances beyond their control. We cannot stand by and do nothing.
Mary Hillis, Canada

I think it is despicable that men resort to violence against women when they don't get their own way. It is not masculine it is cowardice in its most basic form.
Michelle Bard, Australia

These horrific acid attacks are carried out on women in India too. Most men in India and Pakistan are brought up to think that they are superior to women; I know it because I've seen it. We are far behind the rest of the world where society is concerned. When will we stop giving so much importance to the male child? When will men and women be equal?
Michelle, US/India

This is easily the most disturbing thing I've ever seen in my life; not because of Zarina's appearance, but because a human being is actually capable of such cruelty. I'm physically shaken by this.
John Glosson, USA

I am appalled and enraged. But what is the use of sharing my comments in this forum? All our collective pressure on the Pakistani government is not going to change a thing. We have to find ways of helping women like Zarina, in one way or another. The best way I can help is by donating money to women's organizations dedicated to improving women's rights. And I will, as soon as I get the chance.
Rita Chawla, NY, USA

Shame on the Pakistan government who are aware of what is happening
Laura Mockett, Canada
A shame on the Pakistan government who are aware of what is happening and continue to ignore this barbaric practice. When will at least one of the female legislators do their job and speak out for these women and call for radical measures against the perpetrators of these crimes?
Laura Mockett, Canada

Our religion, Islam, offers equal right to women but does not allow any one to take the law in one's hand. There should be a strict law against acid attacker. The law should be passed by Federal Government but the cases must be dealt at local level with speedy justice.
Shahid Bashir Khokhar, Pakistan

Being a Pakistani woman I am angered, and then ashamed of the frequency of this crime, which is allowed to go unnoticed almost every time.
RNZ, Canada

Strict punishment should be given to those who commit such insane and inhuman acts. The Parliament should approve laws that must result in abolishing crimes and violence against women. Bangladesh has led an example for Pakistan in this regards where savages who commit acid attacks are sentenced to death.
Yasser Ahmad, Toronto, Canada

I would like to sentence these kind of men whole life in prison. This is minimum punishment they deserve.
Akmal Ilyas, Pakistan

I am sorrowful and regret what effects illiteracy and poverty can have
Vivek Jain, India (now US)
This is plain horrific! I cannot even imagine how one human being can go to such lengths as to do commit a heinous crime on another. I am indeed sorrowful, and regret what effects illiteracy and poverty can have. There can be no laws but a basic respect for all fellow beings --be they men OR women, Muslim OR non-Muslim that will heal this sore. I just hope that no one else has to undergo through such torture again.
Vivek Jain, India (now US)

I have lived in Bangladesh for the last 16 years and stories like this are becoming more and more frequent. The one positive, which I think we really need to focus on is that these incidents of acid throwing are being talked and read about. In a country where less than 50% of the people are educated, to talk about acid throwing means educating. NGOs and individuals need to be applauded for their hard work.

Everyday they go out into a society that clearly sees women as second class citizens, and these NGOs fight this ignorance. The government is beginning to sit up a little and take notice and other NGOs and agencies are funding more projects to raise awareness.
Faseeha Khan, Bangladesh

This gruesome act of barbarity is an assault against fundamental freedom to live, for which everyone should rise up and oppose. I call on human rights organisations, the media and all concerned individuals to mount pressure on the authorities of Pakistan at all levels to not only punish the culprits, but create awareness aimed at deterring others.
Timothy Ibrahim, Nigeria

Proper education and guidance is one of the keys to end this brutality.
Ganesan Sivagnanam, Norway

With due respect, people who commit such implacable acts, should be condemned to the same fate, to which they have condemned those who suffer from their vengeful acts in order to set examples for others!!!
Sulaiman Sarwary, Afghanistan

In spite of our knowledge and enlightenment through communication and contact between peoples, millions of people still react to emotions which allow them to behave in very primitive ways. It also illustrates what Kofi Anan said; that we have the means and the ability to solve our problems. If only we had the political will. I believe he meant 'political' in both the macro and micro senses.
David, South Africa

It is hard to believe that even in the 21st century such shameful acts are still carried out
Sepand S, Canada/Iran
Living in the West, it is hard to believe that even in the 21st century such shameful acts are still carried out. Stoning women who have committed adultery or engaged in pre-marriage sex, whether it was voluntary or whether they were raped, is another example of such horror. Instead of wasting our money on waging war against other nations based on false WMD claims and statements, and killing innocent civilians, we should be funding the poor and educating the poor. Education is the key to democracy.
Sepand S, Canada/Iran

Pakistan government needs to pay more attention these horrible crimes. I am shocked to hear innocents Pakistani women get acid burnt on their body. Whoever commits this type of crimes should be executed that is the only justice can be satisfied by the victims and their family.
Aden Abdirahman, U.S.A

I think anyone committing this kind of crime deserves the death penalty. They should also educate women on how to handle acid burns with immediate attention of running water or baking soda mixed with water.
Daniel, USA

I don't think there is any worse crime on humanity, its brutality at the sickest level against all the helpless women. If we don't rise up and stop this then we have failed as human species. If such heinous crime is to be stopped in Pakistan then the law should be very harsh on the perpetrator, maybe life in jail for rest of his natural life.
Bilal Asmal, USA

When I was a child in Mexico there was a similar incident: a jealous ex-boyfriend of a neighbour burnt her with acid as she was leaving work. He had tried out the strength of the acid on several people before he struck at his former girlfriend. It seems that it is a phenomenon particular to macho societies, where men have been taught to do what they want and get away with it. I am appalled that this still should happen in the 21 first century.
Isabel Nunez, USA

I think the men who are perpetrators of this kind of inhuman behaviour should have their hands cut off else imprisoned to the fullest extent (for life preferably)!
Shamsulhaq Qasseem, Zambia

It's really uncivilised and inhumane act.
Mr Mohamad Ibrahim, Malaysia.

This story is beyond belief. This man must be brought to Justice. For Zarina my god assist you in getting better.
Hawa, Somalai

As a person who works with strongly corrosive materials I can only imagine the horror that these victims must have suffered. There must be a strong punishment for committing such a horrendous crime. Is it also possible that a basic education campaign may also help to significantly reduce the damage caused by such attacks?
Jake, U.K.

My first reaction is one of undiluted horror, followed by a sense of urgency that something needs to be done at the educational, and the legal level. Furthermore the cursed acid should be taken off the shelf no matter the consequences to Pakistani agriculture and the perpetuators should be given life imprisonment.
Mario de Grossi, Italy

Men caught throwing acid on women should they themselves be dipped in acid tanks , slowly....
David, USA

People who have done this should be punished severely. General Musharraf promised a lot of things when he came to power and I think he has done everything to bring this country back to stability. If he did not focus on these society's horrifying realities then our society won't be able to produce better human beings to sustain current economic trend. People who are doing this to their female family members should at least get life imprisonment if not death penalty. All these women who have suffered won't get their lives back now. Is the parliament going to be a silent spectator?
Salman Anwer, Los Angeles, USA

I am requesting the court, give him same punishment i.e. pour acid on his face so that in future nobody dare to commit this type of offence
Sunil Kumar g, Malaysia

Punishment of the perpetrator does little for the victim
Sheila Brown, Australia
Punishment of the perpetrator does little for the victim condemned to a life of torture. Is it not possible for international pressure to be brought to bear to prohibit the apparent widespread sales and distribution of acid? Such a ban would prevent these barbarous acts at source. What is the United Nations doing to ameliorate this situation?
Sheila Brown, Australia

People who commit such acts are shameful black spots but by no means represent any nation, province, culture or otherwise. These culprits should be publicly punished with maximum possible punishment so as to counter any other to be culprits from committing such acts.
Khalid Mushtaq, Pakistan

People resorting to such forms of violence should be given capital punishment.
Vivek Chatrath, Singapore

I read the story of Zarina. It's barbaric act. The accused person should first get lashing and than should be hanged publicly, so that in future no one dares to repeat this act.
Ali Qadir, Pakistan

Crime is being committed everywhere, why scream only when it's being committed in the third world. Why, is there no crime more hideous in countries like America, Britain etc......
Piruz Bujang, Malaysia

Such criminals must get rigorous punishment. The best thing would be to burn the crooks with the acid in the same they did to the victims. But the most unfortunate thing is that in countries like ours even the most wicked people and mass-murderers gets respectful release from the corrupt judicial systems.
Mohsin AD, Saudi Arabia

Western countries should not provide aid to countries where women are persecuted.
Patrick Shore, Ireland

This story sickens me. That poor woman! Her attacker should stay in prison for a VERY, VERY long time! He should be made an example of, and used to frighten other men out of the same course of action. It is abominable that women should be treated so badly.
Kym Kettler-Paddock, The Netherlands




SEE ALSO:
Acid attack victim demands justice
28 Jul 03  |  South Asia
Bangladesh acid attacks soar
30 Jan 02  |  South Asia
Patrols against Kashmir acid attacks
12 Aug 01  |  South Asia


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