Acid throwing

Acid throwing
Acid throwing victim, Cambodia

Acid throwing (acid attack[1] or vitriolage) is a form of violent assault.[2]. It is defined as the act of throwing acid onto the body of a person "with the intention of injuring or disfiguring him out of jealousy or revenge".[3] 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.[4] The long term consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring of the face and body.[5][6][7]

These attacks are most common in Cambodia,[8] Afghanistan,[9] India,[10] Bangladesh,[5][6] Pakistan[5] and other nearby countries.[7] According to Taru Bahl and M.H. Syed, 80% of victims of these acid attacks are female and almost 70% are under 18 years of age.[7]


Attacks in South Asia

In South Asia, acid throwing attacks have been used as a form of revenge for refusal of sexual advances, proposals of marriage and demands for dowry.[5] Scholars Taru Bahl and M.H. Syed say that land disputes are another leading cause.[7] In Bangladesh, where such attacks are relatively common, they are mostly a form of domestic violence.[11] Tom O'Neill of National Geographic reported that acid throwing is also used to enforce the caste system in modern India, where uppercaste individuals often attack Dalits for supposedly violating the order.[12] In Cambodia, it was reported that these attacks were mostly carried out by wives against their husbands' lovers.[8] 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".[13] In India, the number of acid attacks have been rising.[14] There had been 68 reported acid attacks in the state of Karnataka since 1999.[15]

According to a Rand Corporation commentary, hundreds of women in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been blinded or maimed "when acid was thrown on their unveiled faces by male fanatics who considered them improperly dressed".[16] Attacks or threats of attacks on women who failed to wear hijab or were otherwise "immodestly dressed" have been reported in other countries as well.[17][18][19][20] In Afghanistan in November 2008, extremists subjected schoolgirls to acid attacks for attending school.[21]

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.[5] 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.[22]


In 2002, Bangladesh introduced the death penalty for throwing acid and laws strictly controlling the sales of acids.[23]

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.[24] This law is not binding and is rarely enforced according to a New York Times report.[13] Iran has a similar law, 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.[25][26]

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

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 counsellors at each stage of physical recovery.[citation needed]

In Bangladesh, the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), Nairpokkho, Action Aid, and the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee's Community Empowerment & Strengthening Local Institutions Programme assist survivors in Bangladesh.[22] The Acid Survivors Foundation in Pakistan (ASF-P) operates in Islamabad offering medical, psychological and rehabilitation support.[27] The Acid Survivors Foundation in Uganda (ASF-U) operates in Kampala and also provides counselling and rehabilitation treatment to victims of acid attacks, as well as their families if need be.[28] Additionally in Cambodia, LICADHO, the Association of the Blind in Cambodia and the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC) all assist survivors of acid attacks. The Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI) 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.[29][30]

Indian acid attack survivor Shirin Juwaley founded Palash Foundation [31] 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'?.[32] 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".[33]

See also


  1. ^ "Cambodian victim on her acid attack". BBC News. 2010-03-21. Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  2. ^ Karmakar, R.N. (2003). Forensic Medicine and Toxicology. Academic Publishers. ISBN 8187504692. 
  3. ^ Vij, Krishan (2003). Textbook of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology : Principles and Practice, 5th Edition. Elsevier India. p. 462. ISBN 9788131226841. 
  4. ^ Swanson, Jordan (Spring 2002). "Acid attacks: Bangladesh’s efforts to stop the violence.". Harvard Health Policy Review 3 (Spring 2002): pp. 3. Retrieved 2008-06-18 
  5. ^ a b c d e Bandyopadhyay, Mridula and Mahmuda Rahman Khan, 'Loss of face: violence against women in South Asia' in Lenore Manderson, Linda Rae Bennett (eds) Violence Against Women in Asian Societies (Routledge, 2003), ISBN 9780700717415
  6. ^ a b " - Bangladesh combats an acid onslaught against women - November 11, 2000". Archived from the original on September 22, 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  7. ^ a b c d Bahl, Taru & M.H. Syed (2004). Encyclopaedia of the Muslim World. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD. ISBN 9788126114191. 
  8. ^ a b Mydans, Seth (2001-07-22). "Vengeance Destroys Faces, and Souls, in Cambodia". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  9. ^ Ermachild Chavis, Melody, Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan (St Martin's Press, 2003), ISBN 978-0-312-30689-2
  10. ^ A. Carlson Whalen, Mother Earth and the Gene Machines (Vantage Press, 2006), ISBN 9780533153398
  11. ^ Scholte, Marianne (2006-03-17). "Acid Attacks in Bangladesh: A Voice for the Victims". Spiegel Online.,1518,406485,00.html. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  12. ^ O'Neill, Tom (June 2003). "India's Untouchables". National Geographic: pp. 2–31 
  13. ^ a b The New York Times. 
  14. ^ India's acid victims demand justice, BBC News, 9 April 2008
  15. ^ Acid test for Indian society, The Guardian, July 29th 2008
  16. ^ "Commentary. "French Tussle Over Muslim Head Scarf is Positive Push for Women's Rights" by Cheryl Benard". 
  17. ^ Chavis, Melody Ermachild (2003). Meena, heroine of Afghanistan: the martyr who founded RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. New York, N.Y.: St. Martin's Press. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-312-30689-2. 
  18. ^ 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. Khaled Abu Toameh (2006-12-02). "Gaza women warned of immodesty". 
  19. ^ Afshin Molavi claims that following the mandating of the covering of hair by women in Iran, "a woman was threatened with an acid attack for not being wearing a hijab". Molavi, Afshin (2005). The soul of Iran: a nation's journey to freedom. New York: W. W. Norton. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-393-32597-3. 
  20. ^ Amir Taheri claims that in 1985 "an 18-year-old college student at the American University in Beirut was the victim of an acid attack by a group of Hezbollah youths who claimed to object to the way in which she was dressed". Taheri, Amir (1987). Holy terror: the inside story of Islamic Terrorism. New York: Hutchinson. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-09-165970-7. 
  21. ^ Dexter Filkins (2009-01-13). "Afghan Girls, Scarred by Acid, Defy Terror, Embracing School". The New York Times. 
  22. ^ a b Anwary, Afroza (Spring 2002). "Acid Violence And Medical Care In Bangladesh: Women’s Activism as Carework.". Gender & Society (Sage publications) 17 (2003): pp. 305–313. doi:10.1177/0891243202250851. Retrieved 2008-06-18 
  23. ^ Roland Buerk (2006-07-28). "Bangladesh's acid attack problem". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  24. ^ Juliette Terzieff (July 13, 2004). "Pakistan's Acid-Attack Victims Press for Justice". Women's eNews. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  25. ^ "Court orders Iranian man blinded". BBC News. 2008-11-28. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  26. ^ "Iranian Acid Attack Victim Pardons Culprit". Al Jazeera English. 2011-07-31. Retrieved 2011-07-31. 
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ Depilex Smileagain Foundation
  30. ^ ASTI
  31. ^ [1]
  32. ^ [2]
  33. ^ Sujan, Dheera (August 2011). "An open letter about beauty and ugliness.". South Asia Wired (August 30, 2011). Retrieved 2011-09-01 

Further reading

External links

Reports of acid attacks from around the world

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