A young Christian healthcare worker in Karachi, Sunita Munawar, has sustained serious skin burns after an acid attack on her. The attack was allegedly perpetrated by her Muslim neighbour whose romantic overtures she had refused.
19-year-old orphan Sunita 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.
“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.
“On 1st February, 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,” Sunita said in a statement from her hospital bed.
Her siblings had repeatedly complained to Kamran’s parents and urged them to stop him from harassing her, but to no avail.
With the FIR (First Information Report) of this 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, remanded into police custody for two days by a local court on Thursday, has confessed to throwing acid at the victim for refusing his proposal, police clarified.
Pakistan has a troubling history of gender-based violence (GBV) and discrimination against women. Acid attacks are a form of GBV in which a corrosive substance is thrown on the victim’s face or body, with the intent of disfiguring or killing them. These attacks are often carried out as a form of revenge or retaliation, and are usually aimed at women who reject marriage proposals or advances from men.
Karachi has witnessed a particular surge in attacks against women, including acid attacks of which at least a dozen have been reported since October-November 2022.
Women belonging to religious minorities, such as Christians and Hindus, are especially vulnerable to such attacks. They are often seen as easy targets, and are not protected by the same social norms as compared to women who belong to the majority Muslim community.
The number of acid attacks in Pakistan has continued to rise, with nearly 1,500 cases reported between 2007 and 2022. The impact of these attacks on the lives of women is utterly devastating, with many struggling to make ends meet as they face constant discrimination and marginalisation.
Mary James Gill, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Justice and former member of the Punjab Assembly, told The Friday Times she has not seen this case of gender-based violence get the visibility it merits. “There is an intersectional dimension to the identity of this teenager as she is a Christian and a young provider for her family, all of which make her more vulnerable”.
“She was harassed by a Muslim man, and then he assaulted her,” Gill said, adding that “as a survivor of GBV, her story is erased by the religion of the perpetrator”.