On the 22nd of November, Edinburgh University Amnesty International Society organized an event that featured the screening of the Oscar-winning documentary ‘Saving Face’. We were fortunate to have Dr Mohammad Jawad, a plastic surgeon who featured in the film, at the event with us to do a question and answer session after the screening.
The film centered on the lives of various women in Pakistan who had been helpless victims of brutal acid attacks. As survivors of such inhumane acts, these women emerged both physically and emotionally scarred. The film chronicles their struggles in moving forward from their traumatizing abuse, and 2 of them even attempt to bring their assailants to justice. They meet Dr Jawad, a prominent plastic surgeon who returns to his home country Pakistan to help these women not only rebuild their faces, but also rebuild their confidence and lives. The film importantly highlights the Senate’s unanimous passing of historical bills upholding the rights of women in such assaults. The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010 recommends 14 year to lifetime imprisonment sentences and levies fines up to Rs1 million for perpetrators of the crime. One of the featured women attempting to bring her assailant to justice saw her husband put in jail for two life sentences as a result of the bill’s passing.
After the screening, Dr Jawad explained the nature of his work in greater detail, and the motivation and challenges involved as part of it. An interesting point that he highlighted was that regarding society itself and the challenges in overcoming horrific social problems such as these. The passing of the bill indicated the changing status of Pakistani women, and it now stands to protect women from a common form of abuse in a country with a terrible history of gender inequality. The passage of this legislation marks a historical and huge step in society. However, the rate of change in society and the mindsets of many individuals within it continue to prove slow. It could be even more difficult to guarantee even greater protection of women’s rights that many men in this patriarchal society are likely to oppose. It is important that the role and perception of women in society is altered in order to put a proper end to these forms of assault. Without this, protection of women’s rights and their protection from other forms of assault could take an even longer time to secure.
Despite all this, one thing is for sure – it is individuals like Dr Jawad who inspire people both in society and all over the world to keep fighting to make such change a reality. Acid throwing is a form of violent assault. Both men and women alike in more than 20 countries around the world are attacked in this inhumane way, and Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are among these countries. Attacks see as many as 1,500 a year being injured and disfigured, leaving some of them with long term consequences such as blindness and permanent scarring of the face and body. It is important to keep fighting to end such violent and inhumane assaults on individuals. The spread of awareness can help shed light on such forms of assaults and can pressure governments in these countries to make the necessary changes to protect individuals from them. While making the plight of scarred individuals in society known, it also pushes for the implementation of legislation in order to further protect others from such attacks.
As Dr Jawad said in the film, ‘in a way, I am saving my own face. I am part of the society, which has this disease. I am doing my bit, but there is only so much I can do. Come join the party.’ As citizens of a global world, we should all ‘join the party’ in any way that we can to help put an end to these attacks.
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