There have been more than 3,000 reported acid attacks in Bangladesh since 1999, according the Acid Survivors Foundation. The true number of victims is thought to be far higher, but the government doesn’t record official figures.
Between 78 per cent and 90 per cent of acid attacks in Bangladesh are perpetrated against women or girls, the vast majority of whom are under 25 years old.
Acid attacks happen all over the world, but they are notably prevalent in Bangladesh, Cambodia and India due to the cheap and easy availability of acid. In Dhaka a litre bottle of sulphuric acid can be bought for Tk. 15, about 13 pence.
The results of an acid attack can be heinous. It eats through skin and bone, leaving burns which permanently disfigure, maim and kill. The motivations for such attacks vary widely, but domestic violence, divorce and land disputes are among the most common.
Often women are attacked with acid to mar their physical attractiveness and to prevent other men marrying them, which is why their faces are targetted.
International development organisation VSO is lobbying the British government to lend significant financial support to the newly established UN Women, a United Nations department set up to help female victims of violence around the world.
To highlight gender inequality in Bangladesh, VSO has recorded the stories of 8 male and female acid attack survivors: There is Onima, whose husband poured battery acid on her vagina after she refused to prostitute herself; Gonga, who was married at 12, divorced at 13, and maimed with acid by her ex-husband when another man sought her hand; and Khadija, who was attacked along with her husband and new born baby.
VSO is drumming up support for strong and immediate funding from the UK government for UN Women and would like you to sign up for a mass lobby on 16 February. Sign up to be a UN Godmother at www.thegodmothers.org.uk