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Menace of acid attack: A global perspective
Acid violence is considered to be deliberate use of acid to attack another human being. Acid violence is a worldwide menace and a global issue. In the 18th century sulphuric acid was first time manufactured in England on industrial scale and in the year 1740 people started using it for violent attacks in the Western Europe, particularly in the USA, during labor unrests and domestic disputes.

However, by the middle of 20th century violence through acid attacks scaled down in the USA and in the Western Europe due to stringent laws and women empowerment but it gained momentum in another parts of the world. In late 20th century and in early 21st century this type of violence spared in other parts of the world, especially in South Asia. Since 1960, acid violence has increased in South Asia, South-East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, West Indies and Middle East.

Acid violence is not restricted to a particular race, religion, or any geographical location. Such attacks occur almost around the world. Although no authentic information about exact numbers of incidents of acid violence is available, it is however, reported that more than 1500 cases of acid violence are recorded around the world every year. While women and girls are victims in about 80 per cent of acid violence cases, about 30 per cent of them are under the age of 18 years.

While acid violence is sometimes perpetrated by disdained lovers it is also used to attain other objectives, particularly to settle personal or family scores. Generally, acid attacks represent a hidden form of violence against women and children. In many cases, there is gender based acid violence specially when sexual advances are spurned or rejected. Sometimes such attacks also result from domestic or land disputes Acid attacks have been resorted against men also.

In most of the counties, particularity in under developed and developing, easy and unrestrained availability of acid, used in manufacturing and processing of cotton and rubber, considered to be a leading cause of acid violence. Meanwhile, in many countries prevailing weak laws, political corruption coupled with insensitive on the part of administration; socioeconomic and cultural disparities; gender based inequalities and coarseness against women are major factors, contributing to the increasing incidents of acid violence in many countries, especially in South Asia.

Earlier to the year 1999, cases of acid violence were reported in very few countries that too mostly in casual manner. However, with the establishment of a London- based NGO viz: Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI) in the year 2002, this menace caught worldwide attention. According to ASTI , more than 1500 acid attacks occur globally and this type of violence is a worldwide phenomena.

ASTI is the only organisation which is working at the international level to end menace of acid violence throughout the world. While working with a chain of its six Acid Survivors Foundations established in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Uganda, ASTI extends its help by providing medical expertise and training to these partner countries as well as helps in raising funds to support acid attack survivors there.

Meanwhile, ASTI is endeavouring to reduce 90 per cent acid violence by the year 2030 in the effected countries. ASTI's in-country partners are Acid Survivors Foundation, Bangladesh (ASFB), Acid Survivors Foundation, Pakistan (ASFP), Acid Survivors Foundation Uganda (ASFU), Acid Survivors Foundation India (ASFI), Burns Violence Survivors Nepal (BVSN) and Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC).

In the year 2012, the ASTI supported charitable activities worth Pound Sterling. 52,733 in Pakistan, 67,852 in Nepal, 39,608 in Cambodia, 64,824 in Uganda, and 69,488 in Bangladesh. Notably, ASTI is being supported by several world organisations and international NGOs, including United Nations Trust Fund To End Violence Against Women (UN Trust Fund) and United Kingdom based Islamic Help (IH), which was established in the year 2003 by a group of young people to help suffering and poverty stricken people.

The highest number of incidents related to acid violence are reported from of South Asian countries, particularly from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

In Bangladesh, there have been more than 3,000 reported attacks since 1999. From the year 1999 to 2013 a total of 3184 acid attacks occurred in Bangladesh and 3512 people could survive such attacks. In the year 2014, a total of 56 acid attacks and 70 survivors respectively, were recorded in Bangladesh.

Most of the Bangladeshi victims come from the families of lower economic status with monthly income of about TK 5,000, (US$ 71). Following rising trend of acid attacks in Bangladesh, in 1999 the Acid Survivors Foundation, Bangladesh (ASFB) was established at Mirpur in Dhaka. In addition to running, medical, rehabilitation and development programmers, ASFB also runs a 20-bed hospital for acid survivors.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh government have taken several legal steps , including enacting the Acid Offense Prevention Act 2002 and Acid Control Act, 2002 as well as establishing The National Acid Control Council (NACC) and the District Acid Control Committees (DACO) under the said act.

In India, the main causes of acid attacks are attributed to domestic violence, martial rejection, dowry demands and suspicion of infertility. The Acid Survivors Trust India (ASTI), which was formed in Kolkata in the year 2010 is prime NGO looking after the welfare, rehabilitation, medical and related support to acid victims in the country. ASTI is an affiliate of Acid Survivors Trust International, London.

Ironically, with regard to number of acid violence in India, there is no separate statics available early to year 2013 as the Indian criminal law did not recognize it as a separate office, but with amendment of Indian Panel code (IPC) in February 2013, incidents of acid attacks are now being recorded by the law enforcing agencies as a separate offence under section 326A and 327A of IPC.

However, according to conservative estimates of ASTI the number of acid attacks could range between one hundred to five hundred per annum. Meanwhile, in March 2014, the India's National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), New Delhi, in response to a Right to Information (RTI) request estimated that there had been 225 reported cases of acid attacks on women between the year 2010 to 2012, which however, activists believed that number of acid attacks was much higher what had been reported by the NCRB.

Meanwhile, following amendments in criminal laws in 2013 and initiatives of the Supreme Court of India, the National Commission for Women and a number of state level NGOs, there is increased mass awareness against this type crime in the country.

In Pakistan, about 70 per cent of acid victims are women and in the 60 per cent of cases acid attacks occur during domestic disputes or violence. A total of 143 acid attacks were registered in the year 2013 with the Acid Survivors Foundation, Pakistan (ASFP), notably, out of which about 40 per cent of acid attacks were against boys or men.

ASFP was formed in the year 2006 with its headquarters at Islamabad and it is a leading the movement to eradicate the acid violence in Pakistan. The Pakistan government also took legal initiatives and in the year 2011 the criminal law was amended and later in December 2012, the Comprehensive Acid and Burn Crime Bill was introduced in the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan's Punjab government was contemplating to set up first public rehabilitation centre for burn  survivors in South Asia on a private-public partnership basis. However, despite stiffer sentences for acid attacks offenders, ranging from the 14 years life imprisonment to life imprisonment and a fine of one million rupees, the campaigners believed that the number of women doused in acid has increased in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the problem of acid attacks is not only mainly confined to South Asia. In Iran, there have been notable acid attacks reported and in Columbia over 150 cases of acid attacks were recorded in the year 2013, whereas acid attacks are on the rise in Italy. Furthermore, incidents of acid violence are also reported from the different countries including Vietnam, Laos, China, United Kingdom, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and some Middle East countries.

Despite the fact that menace of acid violence has attracted the world wide attention and a number of legal and social initiatives have been taken at the governments and international level with the support of local NGOs, a major comprehensive action is required to build upon past successes and work towards eradicating acid violence in the world.

Curb on domestic women violence, gender equality, empowerment of women and full and equal access to resources and women's full integration into the formal economy as well as their full participation in public and political life are some of the essential steps need to be taken for the eradication of the sinful act of acid violence and other types of violence against women and girls. 

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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