Britain is home to one of the highest per capita rates of recorded acid attacks in the world. Yes, that’s right. Britain. Not Pakistan or any other country of the Global South. We point this out not to gloat. But to see if there any lessons to be learned by either side.
The number of acid attacks has increased over the last two-and-a-half years, largely centring on London. From 2015-2016, the use of corrosive substances for violent purposes in the capital was almost double from that of 2005.
Britain is unusual in that most of the London victims are men, around two-thirds. Yet like anywhere else in the world — at the heart of the issue is the easy availability of acid combined with its relative affordability. The recent spike in this type of crime — last Thursday alone saw five men attacked in separate incidents across the capital in a little over an hour — has been linked to gang crime.
Charities have called upon stricter laws to regulate the buying of these substances. The Home Office is said to be working closely alongside the Metropolitan Police to see what can be done on this front. With the latter warning that mopeds seem to be a decisive factor in what may loosely be termed drive-by-spraying attacks. Indeed, the Met has warned the public to try and take pre-emptive action by not leaving keys in scooters and suchlike.
To us, this sounds a little familiar. Meaning that here in Pakistan, it is women who overwhelmingly fall victim to acid attacks. And it is women who are usually reprimanded for not doing this, or for doing that. We are not sure that it offers us any relief to see Britain cast in the role of equal opportunity offender.
Nevertheless, there are lessons to be had. Firstly, violence has no religion. It also has no class. Which brings us on to the second point. Namely, that long gone is the time where activists here and abroad can get away with touting social stereotypes and tropes when it comes to both Pakistani victims and perpetrators of violence. Especially given how, in certain quarters, it has become rather fashionable to worry more about the stigmatising of working-class men regardless of the violence they may unleash against women on the grounds of illiteracy or lack of education. For this essentially gives them carte blanche to do what they will. And that way — no one is safe. *
Published in Daily Times, July 16th , 2017.