Wednesday, 6 March 2013
Posted by Stop Acid Attacks On Wednesday, March 06, 2013
Acid throwing, also called an acid attack or vitriolage, is a form of violent assault. It is defined as the act of throwing acid onto the body of a person "with the intention of injuring or disfiguring [them] out of jealousy or revenge". Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The long term consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring of the face and body.
These attacks are most common in Cambodia, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other nearby countries. Globally, at least 1500 people in 20 countries are attacked in this way yearly, 80% of whom are female and somewhere between 40% and 70% under 18 years of age.
Attacks in South Asia
In Bangladesh, where such attacks are relatively common, they are mostly a form of domestic violence. The Acid Survivors Foundation counted 91 attacks in Bangladesh in 2011 The chemical agents most commonly used to commit these attacks are hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid. According to Mridula Bandyopadhyay and Mahmuda Rahman Khan, it is a form of violence primarily targeted at women. They describe it as a relatively recent form of violence, with the earliest record in Bangladesh from 1983. The scholar Afroza Anwary points out that acid violence occurs not only in Bangladesh but also in Pakistan, China, Ethiopia and has occurred historically in Europe.
In Cambodia, it was reported that these attacks were mostly carried out by wives against their husbands' lovers.
In 2006 a group in Gaza calling itself "Just Swords of Islam" claimed to have thrown acid at a young woman who was dressed "immodestly," and warned other women to wear the hijab.
The Thomas Reuters Foundation survey says that India is the fourth most dangerous place in the world for women to live in as women belonging to any class, caste or creed and religion can be victims of this cruel form of violence and disfigurement, a premeditated crime intended to kill or maim her permanently and act as a lesson to put her in her place. In India, acid attacks on women who dared to refuse a man's proposal of marriage or asked for a divorce are a form of revenge. The number of acid attacks have been rising in India and there have been 68 reported acid attacks in the state of Karnataka since 1999. Most of the female victims suffer more because of police apathy in dealing with cases of harassment as that of a safety issue as they refused to register a police case despite the victim being attacked thrice before meriting police aid after an acid attack.
One such incident would be Sonali Mukherjee's case where the perpetrators were granted bail after being sentenced to nine years of Jail. Thereafter, when her family approached High Court, all the legislators, and MPs in search of justice, all she got in return was assurances and "nothing else". The perpetrators got away scot-free. Without media attention, an acid attack victim languishes in pain and poverty,their families often unable to bear the medical expenses.
Indian acid attack survivor Shirin Juwaley founded Palash Foundation to help other survivors with "psycho-social rehabilitation". She also spearheads research into social norms of beauty, speaks publicly, and blogs regularly at Do I Look 'Normal'? In 2011, the principal of an Indian college refused to have Juwaley speak at her school for fear that Juwaley's story of being attacked by her husband would make students "become scared of marriage".
Tom O'Neill of National Geographic reported that acid throwing is also used to enforce the caste system in modern India.
According to New York Times reporter Nicholas D. Kristof, acid attacks are at an all-time high in Pakistan and increasing every year. The Pakistani attacks he describes are typically the work of husbands against their wives who have "dishonored them". According to another New York Times article, in 2011 there have been counted 150 acid attacks, after 65 in 2010.
In 2002, Bangladesh introduced the death penalty for throwing acid and laws strictly controlling the sale, use, storage, and international trade of acids. The acids are used in traditional trades carving marble nameplates, conch bangles, goldsmiths, tanneries, and other industries, which have largely failed to comply with the legislation, derided by Salma Ali of the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association as a "dead law". Under the Qisas law of Pakistan, the perpetrator may suffer the same fate as the victim, and may be punished by having drops of acid placed in his/her eyes. This law is not binding and is rarely enforced according to a New York Times report. According to Afshin Molavi, in the early years of the revolution, and following the mandating of the covering of hair by women in Iran, some woman were threatened with an acid attack by the Islamic vigilantes for wearing a Hijab. Today, Iran has had several laws against acid attacks which is treated as a capital offense, and sentenced an attacker to be blinded in 2008. However, as of July 31, 2011, Ameneh Bahrami pardoned her attacker, thereby absolving Majid Movahedi of his crime and halting the retributive justice of Qisas.
Lower House of Parliament in Pakistan unanimously passed the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill On May 10, 2011. As punishment, according to the bill individuals held responsible for acid throwing face harsh fines and life in prison. Over the past few years, acid throwing has been recognized by many countries as one of the latest and most excruciating forms of violence committed against women.
Victims and treatment
Severity of the damage depends on the concentration of the acid and the period of time before the acid is thoroughly washed off with water or neutralized with a neutralizing agent. The acid can rapidly eat away skin, the layer of fat beneath the skin, and in some cases even the underlying bone. Eyelids and lips may be completely destroyed, the nose and ears severely damaged. According to the Acid Survivor's Foundation in Pakistan, there is a high survival rate amongst victims of acid attacks. Consequently the victim is faced with physical challenges, which require long term surgical treatment, as well as psychological challenges, which require in-depth intervention from psychologists and counselors at each stage of physical recovery.
In Bangladesh, the Acid Survivors Foundation, Nairpokkho, Action Aid, and the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee's Community Empowerment & Strengthening Local Institutions Programme assist survivors in Bangladesh.
The Acid Survivors Foundation in Pakistan operates in Islamabad offering medical, psychological and rehabilitation support. The Acid Survivors Foundation in Uganda operates in Kampala and also provides counselling and rehabilitation treatment to victims of acid attacks, as well as their families if need be.
Additionally in Cambodia, LICADHO, the Association of the Blind in Cambodia and the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity all assist survivors of acid attacks. The Acid Survivors Trust International provides specialist support to its sister organisations in Africa and Asia through its specialist team who work across the organisations transferring medical, psychological and social rehabilitation skills whilst supporting knowledge sharing and best practice.