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About the Author

Hanna Clarys
Student (Antwerp, Belgium)

Current Study: Political Sciences at Antwerp University. Likes: reading, writing and drawing. Activities: discovering the world step by step. Dream: becoming a war journalist somewhere in the distant future...


ACID ATTACKS: When Scars Go Deeper Than Skin Alone

Published 30th May 2010 - 13 comments - 6665 views -

Bangladesh, 1967. A teenage girl gets poured with acid by her admirer, whose marriage proposal had been declined by the girl’s mother.


40 years after this first (known) case of acid attack the number of as well as the reports about this crime have increased considerably; every year about 200 Bengali women are attacked by acid; 40% of them are not even 18 years old. Here you can see the story of one of them:




Acid attack offenders are mostly men whose marriage proposal is rejected or husbands whose wives aren’t obedient enough and spurned their sexual advances, but family disputes about land (which has become very scarce) seems to be getting the cause more and more. And not only women, but also little children like this boy might become victims:





Political instability in countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sudan causes impunity, as you can see in the following graph. Persecution or imprisonment is mostly out of the question.   



   (Statistics by Acid Survivors Foundation - For Bangladesh only)


Moreover, something that should be a positive change in Bengal society is triggering acid attacks: the position of women in countries like Bangladesh has slowly but surely ameliorated; they are becoming economically independent of men. The latter feel threatened by women who are no longer  subordinate to men, and they want to punish them for it. As long as this idea of looking down on women remains and as long as the government doesn’t provide legal restrictions on the production and sale of acids (everyone is free to buy it and it’s not expensive at all), more victims will be made.

As you have seen in the video and with the boy on the photo, acid causes severe mutilations; burns, blindness, invalidity, … Acid makes skin melt and goes straight to the bones. But the scars left by acid are not just skin deep. Victims are physically, mentally and emotionally traumatized and often get isolated because of the loss of trust and self respect. The stigma sticks with them for the rest of their lives, making it difficult to find a job or to get married.

One moment of inattention can destroy a woman’s life in Bangladesh and many other countries forever. When will women be able to sleep safely?




(Main photo by Stijn Pieters)

Category: Equality | Tags:


  • Andrea Arzaba on 31st May 2010:

    A very important issue that is becoming relevant for international society. Ah Hanna, but when will this type of attacks stop??? It is a part of a mentality, a culture… Education and economical independence are the key in cases like the one you present

  • Carmen Paun on 31st May 2010:

    Dear Hannna, thanks a lot for your post! It was great reading it and finding out about an issue I didn’t know anything about. It’s outrageous to see what women go through in some countries!

  • Jodi Bush on 31st May 2010:

    It’s horrendous. I find it just so mind boggling that people can do this to another human being.

  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 31st May 2010:

    Thanks for the post Hanna,

    Jodi, I totally agree with you. I second the motion. There are some isolated cases in the Philippines and it’s really frightening. I hear a lot about these things, too in Hong Kong.

  • Tiziana Cauli on 31st May 2010:

    Hi Hanna,
    thanks for this post. Some people turn their heads and prefer not to see such pictures but I think it’s important to show them. A couple of months ago, in an exhibition called FotoPres, I saw a series of shots of Pakistani acid victims (all women) by Spanish photojournalist Emilio Morenatti. Although this series won the first prize of the 2009 edition, visitors could not stop by these pictures for more than a couple of seconds. I remember thinking those were just portraits and still they made us want to close our eyes. What would we do if these women were here in person? It must take a lot of courage and strength to go on with you life while bearing the signs of such horrible violence. Here is one of the photos:

  • Aija Vanaga on 31st May 2010:

    Horrible! How this is even possible in this world ..

  • Luan Galani on 02nd June 2010:

    HOW COME?! Horrible…heinous crimes…

  • Hanna Clarys on 05th June 2010:

    Tiziana, the photo’s you linked to are so breathtaking - in every manner this word can be used. Closing your eyes for things like that is easy; that way people avoid thinking about women whose lives aren’t as rosy as they deserve. And as we ourselves are having. I will always try to look at images like that, and have feeling of sorrow and anger with it.

    Andrea, is it truly a part of culture? Isn’t it more something that has grown with the idea that someone has to be punished for things that don’t go you way - victimizing women because the government (which actually should address the issues that go wrong) isn’t approachable?

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 05th June 2010:

    very important point. thanks for the information.

  • Sylwia Presley on 03rd July 2010:

    I am so glad you have mentioned acid attacks on this platform. Some of most shocking deeds of our ‘humanity’, something I personally struggle to comprehend…

  • Hanna Clarys on 24th July 2010:

    Don’t think it is comprehensible, Sylwia. And it shouldn’t be anyway!

  • Justin Mottershead on 24th July 2010:

    Thanks for such a good post, harrowing stuff indeed, unfortunately acid attacks have even occurred in the UK. A television presenter was left scarred for life following an attack by her ex-boyfriend.

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