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Acid Survivors Foundation - An Important New Initiative
Published BICN October 1999.
Violence against women is now a universal phenomenon. However, the extent and form of violence differs from one society to another.
In Bangladesh, one particularly vicious and damaging form of violence is acid throwing. Acid attacks have traumatic consequences - physically, psychologically, and socially. Nitric and sulphuric acid causes skin tissue to melt; in some cases leaving the bones underneath exposed and dissolving bone. Most seriously, acid striking the eyes permanently damages them, and many survivors lose one or both eyes.
Most survivors experience a dramatic change in their lifestyle. Most must stop their education or work during a lengthy recovery and beyond due to disfigurement. Victims often face social isolation damaging to self-esteem and economic position. An unmarried woman attacked with acid likely will never be able to marry.
Isolated incidents of acid violence in other countries, but nowhere else do high numbers of incidents occur. Accurate statistics on the number of attacks in Bangladesh are hard to come by, given the isolated nature of rural communities in Bangladesh, but available evidence suggests an alarming trend: 47 cases were *reported * in 1996, 130 in 1997, and 200 in 1998. The number of unreported cases is thought to be high.
Acid violence is a relatively recent phenomenon, with the first documented acid violence case occurring in 1967. Victims are attacked for many reasons, such as for spurning the sexual advances of predatory males or rejecting marriage proposals. Recently, however, children, older women and sometimes men have been attacked in the course of family or land disputes, vengeance, and dowry demands.
The Acid Survivors Foundation was established on 1 May 1999 to co-ordinate work to tackle this problem. Its aim is to provide ongoing assistance in the treatment, rehabilitation, and reintegration into society of survivors of acid violence by identifying and improving existing services; and to work to prevent further acid throwing attacks.
The Foundation will work with NGOs, the Government of Bangladesh and the international community:
The Foundation has a Board of fifteen trustees including representatives of NGOs working in the field of acid violence, international donors and acid survivors.
The Foundation is very new and urgently requires financial support. Its effectiveness would be greatly enhanced by any support individuals could give. Please make your cheque payable to Acid Survivors Foundation and send or deliver it to House D-2, Road 95, Gulshan. Tel +880(2)882-4740 - 4, fax +880(2)882-3516, email John.Morrison@cidapsudhaka .