It takes a nation to protect the nation
I wonder if they invited the poor women who's lives have been blighted to walk down the red carpet. Somehow, I think not.
CAIRO (dpa) – The joy with which Pakistan’s first Academy Award was received this week quickly made way for debate on the subject of the film: acid attacks that leave hundreds badly disfigured every year.
Saving Face captures the stories of two women who survived attacks in which acid was thrown in their faces, and the cosmetic surgeon who has returned to Pakistan to help them.
The 52-minute documentary co-directed by Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Daniel Junge from the United States won the Oscar for best short documentary.
There were celebrations all around in Pakistan following the announcement from the glitzy awards ceremony in Los Angeles. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani promised a “high civil award” for Obaid-Chinoy.
But a day later, as activists and the media took advantage of the Hollywood triumph to cast the spotlight on one of the worst aspects of Pakistani society, the euphoria had subsided.
At least 3,017 acid attacks were reported between 1999 and 2011, according to data compiled by the non-profit Acid Survivors Foundation. In 2002 alone, 496 cases were reported.
Most of the victims are women, who in majority of cases suffer at hands of male perpetrators. The acid leaves them disfigured for life due to lack of medical facilities and social security.
“Although the award is a matter of personal and national pride, its content is matter of national shame,” The News newspaper said in an editorial.
“What is more important is that (Obaid-)Chinoy’s effort holds up a mirror to us for critical self-examination.”
Women’s rights activist Marvi Memon described the award as a “big achievement” for the filmmaker and the country.
“The entire documentary is based on the crime of acid attacks and it will help proper implementation of laws to curb this evil,” Memon said.
The use of acid as a weapon has deep roots in Pakistan society. But it is only in the last decade that the government has relaxed restrictions on media, resulting in coverage of such social issues.
The motives for acid attacks range from family disputes to land occupancy issues, but rejection of marriage proposal appears to be behind most attacks.
Mussrat Misbah, based in the eastern city of Lahore, is a beauty therapist who runs Smile Again, an organization to help victims.
“We usually find women are attacked with acid when they or their parents refuse to marry them to someone who has made a proposal, which angers them, as rejection by a woman or her relatives is considered an insult,” she said.
Last year, the government adopted stricter legislation that imposes a 14-year sentence and a minimum fine of 1 million rupees (11,100 dollars), after growing activism over lack of law enforcement forced lawmakers to act.
Memon said Obaid-Chinoy’s film could help ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
“Now there will be more pressure on the government to implement the new laws and we hope convictions for people involved in it will begin soon.”