An acid attack involves the premeditated throwing of acid on a victim, usually on her face. In addition to causing psychological trauma, acid attacks result in severe pain, permanent disfigurement, subsequent infections, and often blindness in one or both eyes. Perpetrators commit acid attacks for a number of reasons, including revenge for refusal of a marriage proposal or other romantic or sexual advances; land disputes; perceived dishonor; and jealousy. While acid attacks are most prevalent in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and Pakistan, they have also been reported in Afghanistan and in parts of Africa and Europe. Experts attribute the prevalence of the practice in part to the easy availability of acids. (See: Statistics, Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity; Good Practices on Harmful Practices Expert Group Report, p. 22)
Legislation addressing acid attacks should include the following elements:
(See: Good Practices on Harmful Practices Expert Group Report, pp. 22-23)
Promising Practice – Bangladesh’s Acid Crime Prevention Act (2002) and Acid Control Act (2002)
In 2002, the Bangladeshi Government passed two Acts, the Acid Control Act 2002 and the Acid Crime Prevention Act 2002. The Acts address punishment of those involved in the acid attack itself and restrict the import and sale of acid in open markets.
Some important features of the laws include:
Promising Practice – Cambodia’s Draft Law on Acid Attacks
In response to the increasing number of acid attacks in Cambodia, the government has drafted a new law regulating the sale and use of chemicals. The draft legislation provides for stiffer penalties for perpetrators, most of whom would receive life sentences. The draft law also establishes a state-run medical center and provides improved medical care and social integration programs for victims.
(See: CAMBODIA: Strict penalties planned for acid attacks, IRIN (28 April 2010))
Promising Practice – Pakistan’s Proposed Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2010
A bill currently before Pakistan’s Parliament would, if passed, regulate the manufacturing and supply of acids for the first time in that country. The proposed law, the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2010, broadly defines the crime of “voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous means or substances,” phrases the definition so as to allow for punishment even where someone other than the intended victim is injured, and provides for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for those convicted of the crime. It includes a civil remedy provision that enables victims to seek monetary damages from perpetrators and provides an enforcement mechanism if a perpetrator fails to pay the ordered damages. The bill also includes a provision regulating the sale of acids and criminalizing the sale of acids by someone who is not licensed to sell them. In addition, the bill contains a provision requiring sellers of acids to keep detailed records on each sale.
The proposed Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2010 provides, in pertinent part:
TO BE INTRODUCED IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
A BILL to amend various Acts and Codes in relation to protection against acid crimes, and rehabilitation of and compensation for victims of acid crimes.
WHEREAS the Constitution recognizes the fundamental rights of women and children to security of life and liberty, and dignity of person;
AND WHEREAS it is expedient to institutionalize measures which prevent and protect women and children from acid crimes and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto;
It is hereby enacted as follows:-
1. Short Title and Commencement.
(1) This Act may be called the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2010.
(2) It shall come into force at once.
2. Amendment of Section 332, Act XLV of 1860.
In the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (Act XLV of 1860), hereinafter referred to as the said Code, [section 332 sub-section (1) shall be amended as following:-
(1) Whoever causes pain, harm, disease, infirmity or injury to any person or impairs, disables, DISFIGURES, DEFACES or dismembers ANY organ of the body or any part thereof of any person without causing his death, is said to cause hurt.”]
3. Insertion of new sections 336A and 336B, Act XLV of 1860.
In the said Code, after section 336, the following new Sections 336A and 336B shall be inserted, namely:-
“336A. Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous means or substances.
Whoever voluntarily causes hurt by means of fire or any heated substance, or by means of any poison or any corrosive substance or acid, or by means of any explosive or arsenic substance or by means of any substance which is deleterious to the human body to come into contact with, to inhale, to swallow, or to receive into the blood shall be called to have caused hurt by dangerous means or substances.
336B. Punishment for causing hurt by dangerous means or substances.
(1) Whoever, by doing any act with the intention of causing hurt to any person, or with the intention that he is likely to cause hurt to any person, causes hurt by dangerous means or substances to any person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to life, or with fine which may not be less than five hundred thousand rupees, or with both.
(2) Notwithstanding the provision contained in sub-section (1) hereof, the court may, at any stage of the trial on an application by the aggrieved person, direct the accused to pay monetary relief to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person and such relief may include, but is not limited to:-
(a) loss of earning; and
(b )medical expense.
(3) The accused shall pay monetary relief to the person aggrieved within the period specified in the order made in terms of sub-section (2) and in accordance with the directions of the Court in this regard.
(4) The court may, upon failure on part of the accused to make payment in terms of the order under sub-section (3) direct an employer or debtor, of the accused, to directly pay the aggrieved person or to deposit with the court a portion of the wages or salaries or debt due to or accrued to the credit of the accused, which amount may be adjusted towards the monetary relief payable by the accused or recover the same as arrears of land revenue.” . . .
5. Amendment of Section 2(1), Act XII of 1919.
In the Poisons Act, 1919 (Act XII of 1919), hereinafter referred to as the said Act, in section 2,-
(i) for sub-section (1) the following shall be substituted, namely:
“(1) The Provincial Government may by rules consistent with this Act regulate or prohibit, within the whole or any part of the territories under its administration, except under and in accordance with the conditions of a license granted as provided by this Act and those rules, the manufacture, possession, use, sale and purchase, whether wholesale or retail, of poisons or any specified poison.”
(ii) after sub-section (2), the following sub-sections (3), (4) and (5) shall be added, namely:
“(3) Except as provided by sub-section (4), a person shall not manufacture, distribute, supply or sell by wholesale or retail any poison unless he is licensed pursuant to the provisions of Section 2A to do so.
(4) Subject to this Act and the rules,-
(a) a pharmaceutical chemist is authorized to manufacture, have in his possession, and to use, supply or sell at his pharmacy in the ordinary course of his retail business any preparation, admixture or extract containing any poison;
(b) a medical practitioner or veterinary surgeon is authorized to have in his possession and to use, supply or sell in the lawful practice of his profession any poison; and
(c) any dentist is authorized to have in his possession and to use in the lawful practice of his profession any poison.
(d) any other category of person notified by Provincial government in the official gazette shall also be allowed to have possession and use in the lawful practice of his profession any poison
(5) Subject to this Act and the rules,
(a) it shall not be lawful to sell any non-medicinal poison to any person unless that person is either:-
(i) certified in writing in the prescribed manner by a person authorized by the rules to give a certificate for the purposes of this section, or
(ii) known by the seller or by a pharmacist in the employment of the seller where the sale is effected,
(b) the seller of any such poison shall not deliver it until:-
(i) he has made or caused to be made an entry in a book to be kept for this purpose stating in the prescribed form the date of the sale, the name and address of the purchaser and of the person (if any) by whom the certificate required under paragraph (a) above was given, the name and quantity of the article sold, and the purpose for which it is stated by the purchaser to be required, and
(ii) the purchaser has signed the entry.”
6. Insertion of new Section 2(A), Act XII of 1919.
In the said Act, after Section 2, the following new Section shall be inserted, namely:-
“2A. License to sell poisons
(1) Subject to this Act and the rules to be prescribed, a licensing authority may grant a license:-
(a) to make any poison;
(b) to manufacture and distribute or sell by wholesale any poison;
(c) to sell by retail any poison; or
(d) to import across a customs frontier any poison.
in or at any pharmacy or other premises or place of business specified in the license, to any person who satisfies the licensing authority that he is a fit and proper person to be the holder of such a license.
(2) An application for a license under this section shall be made in the prescribed manner to the licensing authority, which may in its discretion grant or refuse the license.
(3) The licensing authority shall not grant any license under this section unless and until it is satisfied that the premises of the applicant are suitable for the purpose in respect of which application is made for the license, and are properly and hygienically equipped for that purpose.
(4) All existing pharmacies, dealers, vendors, manufacturers, suppliers and other persons who require a license pursuant to sub-section (1), shall apply to the licensing authority for the relevant license not later that six months from the date of framing of rules under this Act.”
7. Substitute of Section 6, Act XII of 1919.
In the said Act, for Section 6, the following shall be substituted, namely:-
(a) commits a breach of any condition contained in Section 2 or of any rule made under Section 2,
(b) imports without a license into Pakistan across a customs frontier defined by the Federal Government any poison the importation of which is for the time being restricted under Section 3, or
(c) breaks any condition of a license granted to him under Section 2A, shall be punishable—
(i) on a first conviction, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to one hundred thousand rupees, or with both, and
(ii) on a second and subsequent conviction, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to two hundred thousand rupees, or with both.”
(2) Any poison in respect of which an offence has been committed under this section, together with the vessels, packages, or coverings in which the same is found, shall be liable to confiscation, and notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 the offences under this Section shall be cognizable, non-bailable and compoundable.”
8. Insertion of Clause 6A, Act XII of 1919.
In the said Act, after Section 6, the following new Section shall be inserted, namely:-
“6A Cancellation and suspension of licenses.
Where any person is found to have contravened any of the provisions of this Act, or the rules in respect of any poison and the contravention is of such a nature that the import, export, manufacture or sale of any poison by such person is, in the opinion of the licensing authority, likely to endanger public health, that authority may, after giving such person an opportunity of being heard, cancel the license to make, manufacture, distribute, sell and import poison issued to that person or suspend such license for a specified period.”
BUT NOTE: The proposed Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2010, quoted above allows for a possibility of a fine-only sentence for a person convicted of an acid attack offense. We do not recommend such a provision in acid attack legislation. Penalties must be proportional to the severity of the crime, and in light of this principle, a fine alone does not constitute an appropriate penalty for an acid attack.
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