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Pakistan Considers Life Sentence For Acid Attacks On Women

Workers at a nongovernmental organization comfort a victim of an acid attack at a local hospital in Quetta in May 2010.
Pakistan's National Assembly is considering a bill that would toughen the punishment for people who commit acid attacks on women, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.

The bill was prepared by the National Commission on the Status of Women, a government committee that oversees women's rights in Pakistan.

Tahira Noor, head of the commission, told RFE/RL that life imprisonment and a fine of 1 million rupees ($11,800) had been proposed in the bill as punishment for anyone involved in carrying out an acid attack on women.

The current penalty for those convicted of acid attacks is between five and 14 years in prison.

Noor said that under the bill the government would set up a monitoring board to oversee the law's implementation. She added that people selling the acid used in the attacks would also be subject to legal action.

Human rights activist Samar Minallah welcomed the initiative, but added that the government should take practical steps to ensure women rights are respected in Pakistan.

"There was no such law regarding acid attacks on women," she said. "But there will be no change unless the laws are fully implemented. But at the same time, we should not forget that the [country] needs laws [in this regard]."

Reports suggest that an average of about 150 incidents of acid attacks on women are reported in Pakistan each year.

Men attack women with acid and usually throw it at their head or face, often leaving them grotesquely disfigured. The attacks are sometimes carried out for religious reasons. But more often they are used by men against disgruntled wives, or because a woman has rejected a man, or to settle family feuds.

Other countries where such attacks are common included India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Cambodia.

In Bangladesh, a law was introduced in 2002 allowing for the death penalty to be given for those found guilty of involvement in acid attacks.