ACID ATTACKS ON WOMEN AND GIRLS IN BANGLADESH
Acid attacks on women and girls are on the rise in Bangladesh. Sulfuric acid, cheap and easily accessible like kerosene, has emerged as a weapon used to disfigure and sometimes kill women and girls. Reported reasons for the acid-throwing attacks include the refusal of an offer of marriage, dowry disputes, domestic fights, and disputes over property. Acid attacks leave the victims scarred and often blinded. Treatment, too expensive for most victims, is an excruciatingly painful experience.
It is estimated that there are over 200 acid mutilations each year in Bangladesh. The growing number of acid assaults in Bangladesh reflects an epidemic of gender violence and is a reaction to women's advancing economic and social status. Most of the victims are young. According to newspaper reports in Bangladesh, in the nine-month period following April 1998, of 174 victims of acid attacks ten were girls under ten years of age, 79 were young women between 11-20 years of age, and 20 were women between 20-30 years of age. Other members of the family and bystanders have also been harmed when they were in the vicinity of the intended victim during an attack. Many cases go unrecorded because police do not take the reports seriously and in some instances even try to convince victims to withdraw their complaints. According to the Ittefaq, the leading daily newspaper, in 1999 already there have been at least six acid attacks in January, four in February, and two in the first week of March.
In response to the growing outcry against violence against women, the Bangladesh government enacted "The Women and Child Repression Control Act-1995," which legislated the death penalty as the maximum punishment for perpetrators of acid attacks. This law, however, has not been effective in reducing the incidents of attacks and the Bangladesh Parliament is currently considering new legislation to address loop-holes in the law. According to media reports, the government has appointed a six-member task force, headed by the Joint Secretary of the Home Ministry, which has been entrusted to put forward recommendations on acid importation, production, and its use and control.
Your urgent action is needed to bring wider attention to this horrific form of gender violence and to urge the government of Bangladesh to take all necessary steps to eliminate this crime against women and girls. Please write to the following authorities to demand stronger and more effective legislation to punish perpetrators and to institute more comprehensive social services to assist the victims of acid attacks.
Mmes. Sheikh Hasina, Honorable Prime Minister, Prime Minister
Secretariat, Old Shangshad Bhaban, Tejgoan, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Dr. Selma Khan, Chair, UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women, c/o Mr. Director General (United Nations),
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Segun Bagicha, Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh
Mr. Abdul Matin Khasru, Minister for Law, Justice & Parliamentary
Affairs, Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliament, Bangladesh Secretariat,
Mr. Rafiqul Islam (B.U.), Home Minister, Home Ministry, Bangladesh
Secretariat, Dhaka, Bangladesh