Aug 25 2009
Muslim men often use it as their weapon of choice against women who have rejected their advances. Fathers throw acid in their daughters’ faces because they were born female instead of male.
When we hear the words Islamic Terrorism, we may think about suicide missions, mustard gas, the World trade centre blowing up, and hotel bombings. But men have found another way to pass on their control and power.
And this unspeakable, uncontrolled practice is called: “Acid Attacks”. Which is becoming a common practice in certain parts of the World. Sulfuric acid, cheap and easily accessible like kerosene, has emerged as a weapon used to disfigure and sometimes kill women and girls.
Acid-throwing is one of the most alarming and horrific forms of violence especially targeted at women. It has a devastating effect on the victims. It inflicts lifelong suffering on them. Even a small amount of acid, sulphuric or nitric, melts the skin tissues, often with the bones underneath exposed or dissolved. Other effects include: permanent disfigurement, scars on the face and body, and narrowing of the persons nostrils, eyelids and ears. In most cases, vital organs of the survivors, especially the eyes, are permanently damaged.
Acid attacks on women are frighteningly common in Bangladesh. Unofficially the figure is believed to be much higher than 200 a year.
Fozila was attacked because she refused a marriage proposal. Hasina was set upon after an argument over a bucket of water. Two women in the seething Bangladesh capital Dhaka whose lives changed in a blinding flash. They were attacked with acid.
Last year in Bangladesh there were 179 recorded cases of acid attacks. Hydrochloric and nitric acid are cheap and readily available – used by the gallon in the grimy jewellery workshops in the backstreets of the city. In the wrong hands though, it can be devastating. Eating quickly through skin and bone and doing irreparable damage. The victims are targeted usually over land disputes or spurned advances.
While women are the main targets of this despicable crime, children, even babies, are often attacked. ‘Our face is our identity. When it is changed our whole identity is changed. Women and girls are cheap in this society, so men think they can destroy them.’
In a powerful and confronting report South Asia correspondent Sally Sara investigates acid attacks in Bangladesh and asks what’s being done to arrest thisshameful phenomenon. Sara discovers Bangladesh is trying to reform itself. Police have been told to crack down on the acid throwers, and the death penalty has been introduced. The message is that these attacks should no longer be considered just family business.
In a society that shuns people with disabilities it would appear impossible for some of these women to survive let alone prosper but some do through remarkable strength and determination. They have landed good jobs and now can afford to live independently in the city, building a new life they may have only dreamed of in their villages.
They’re sustained by a new self belief, drawing courage and confidence from an inner beauty. ‘Beautiful is what’s inside, what’s there in your heart. My heart is beautiful. I can feel that.’ HASINA AKTER, ACID SURVIVOR ABC