Acid, cheap and easily available, is the quickest weapon to destroy a woman’s life. This comes handy in Cambodia, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other nearby countries. Globally, at least 1,500 people in 20 countries are attacked in this way every year, 80 percent of whom are women and somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of them are under 18 years of age.
In South Asia, people use acid to attack their victims as a form of revenge for refusal of sexual advances, proposals of marriage and demands for dowry. In November 2008, extremists subjected schoolgirls in Afghanistan to acid attacks for attending school. 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 sword of Islam’ claimed to have thrown acid at young women who were dressed ‘immodestly’ and warned other women to wear hijab. In India, acid attacks on women who dared to refuse a man’s proposal of marriage or asked for divorce are a common form of revenge. The number of acid attacks has been rising in India and there have been 68 reported acid attacks in the state of Karnataka since 1999.
Tom O’Neil of National Geographic reported that acid throwing is also used to enforce the caste system in modern India, where upper caste individuals often attack Dalits for supposedly violating the order.
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. Attacks or threats of attacks on women who do not wear hijab or otherwise ‘immodestly dressed’ have been reported in other countries as well. The government must rise to the occasion and do its utmost to put a stop to this barbaric practice by dealing sternly with those who take recourse to such an inhuman practice, and make availability of acids next to impossible.