Amid a sharp increase in incidents of violence against women in the country, a young Christian healthcare provider in Karachi has sustained burn injuries following an acid attack by her Muslim neighbour for allegedly refusing his romantic overtures.
Sunita Munawar, 19, told police that Kamran Allah Bux, who lives in her neighbourhood of Hazara Colony, popularly known as Kala Pull, had been harassing her to get into a relationship with him for quite some time.
“On Feb 1, I left home at 7:30am to get to work. When I got off at the Cantt station bus stop, I noticed Kamran waiting for me. He approached me soon after and threw some liquid at me due to which my eyes, face, arms, and legs started burning. I then collapsed due to extreme pain,” she said in a statement from her hospital bed.
Sunita, an orphan, also said that her siblings had repeatedly complained to Kamran’s parents and urged them to stop him from harassing her but it had borne no fruit.
“He wanted me to be his girlfriend but I refused his advances. I hold him responsible for my injuries and seek justice as per the law,” she said in her statement.
With an FIR [First Information Report] of the incident being lodged at the Frere Police Station under Section 336-B (punishment for hurt by corrosive substance) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), the accused was arrested shortly after.
Kamran, who was on Thursday remanded into police custody for two days by a local court, has confessed to throwing acid at the victim for refusing his proposal, police said.
Pakistan has a history of violence and discrimination against women. Acid attacks are a form of gender-based violence in which a corrosive substance is thrown on the victim’s face or body with the intention of disfiguring or killing them. These attacks are often carried out as a form of revenge or retaliation and are often aimed at women who reject marriage proposals or other advances from men.
Karachi, in particular, has witnessed a surge in acid attacks in recent months with at least a dozen being reported since October-November last year.
READ MORE: The plight of non-Muslim women in Pakistan
Women belonging to religious minorities, such as Christians and Hindus, are doubly disadvantaged and particularly vulnerable to such attacks as they are often seen as easy targets and are not protected by the same social norms as compared to those belonging to the majority Muslim community.
Despite the efforts of various organisations and activists, the number of acid attacks in Pakistan has continued to rise over the years with nearly 1,500 cases reported between 2007 and 2022. The impact of these attacks on the lives of women is devastating, with many struggling to make ends meet and facing ongoing discrimination and marginalisation.
In order to address this issue, activists say, it is crucial that the government takes steps to ensure the safety and protection of all women in Pakistan, regardless of their religion. This includes enforcing existing laws and regulations, as well as implementing new measures to prevent and punish those responsible for these horrific crimes.