|Pakistan's parliament recently stiffened the punishment for acid burnings by passing a landmark set of laws [Reuters]
A Pakistani director has won her country's first Oscar for Saving Face, a short documentary about acid attacks on women and those who help them recover.
The film by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy follows survivors among hundreds of people attacked every year, and focuses on Mohammad Jawad, a British Pakistani plastic surgeon who returned to his homeland to help restore their faces and
The attacks are often carried out by angry husbands or spurned lovers.
"Daniel and I want to dedicate this award to all the heroes working on the ground in Pakistan including Dr Mohammad Jawad who's here with us today," Obaid-Chinoy said on Sunday, referring to her co-director Daniel Junge.
She dedicated the award to all women working for change in Pakistan, urging them to not give up on their dreams.
In 2010, at least 8,000 acid attacks, forced marriages and other forms of violence against women were reported, according to The Aurat Foundation, a local nonprofit.
Because the group relied mostly on media reports, the figure is likely an undercount.
A conservative society
While Pakistan's media and political parties can often be sensitive to criticism, the prestige of an Oscar appears to have outweighed any qualms the government might feel about celebrating a film that shows the country in a bad light to international audiences.
|Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab visits Obaid-Chinoy's
famly in Karachi to gauge their reaction
The government moved to honour Obaid-Chinoy's Oscar win, with Yousuf Raza Gilani, the prime minister, saying that she would receive a civil award for her accomplishment.
"The pride of Pakistan is in their artistes & intellectuals. Not in bombs and bans!" Nadeem Paracha, a liberal columnist, said in a tweet.
Mistreatment of women is widespread in Pakistan, a conservative nation of some 175 million where most people are poor, only half the adults can read, and extremist ideologies such as that of the Taliban are gaining traction.
A new law mandates that convicted attackers serve a minimum sentence of 14 years, and pay a minimum fine of about $11,200. It also criminalises other common abuses, such as marrying off young girls to settle tribal disputes and families preventing women from inheriting property.
Rights activists praised the laws but stressed their passage was just the first step, and likely not the hardest one. It could be even more difficult to get Pakistan's corrupt and inefficient legal system to protect women's rights that many men in this patriarchal society likely oppose.