This year’s Best Short Documentary category at the Academy Awards has honoured a film from Pakistan about acid violence. Saving Face by directors Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Daniel Junge, follows the work of a British-Pakistani surgeon with the Acid Survivor Foundation (ASF), to provide free surgical services and support to victims of acid attacks. It also explores the holistic ways in which ASF-Pakistan has been working to empower Pakistani women and eradicate acid violence with the support of UN Women, among other partners and donors.
In addition to its rehabilitation services, ASF-Pakistan lobbies for acid and burn legislation. The organization was actively involved in consultations, facilitated by a number of international partners, including UN Women, in the drafting of three laws on the issue. The first of these was unanimously passed and enacted in December 2011, and acid-throwing is now a crime against the state, punishable with a fine of one million rupees and a sentence from 14-years to life imprisonment.
Ending violence against women is one of the global priority areas of UN Women and the UN System, and the organization has long supported efforts towards eradicating it, which includes acid violence. In Cambodia, for example, work by Acid Survivors Trust International – a grantee of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women – supports local organizations that work with burn survivors, and also lobbies for legislation and implementation at national and international levels.
The Oscar win for Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and her team, provides a dynamic platform and boost to the on-going national efforts to have the Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2012 passed and implemented in Pakistan’s Provincial assemblies.