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Acid attacks


An acid attack involves the premeditated throwing of acid on a victim, usually on his/her face. In addition to causing psychological trauma, acid attacks result in severe pain, permanent disfigurement, subsequent infections, and often blindness in one or both eyes. Perpetrators commit acid attacks for a number of reasons, including revenge for refusal of a marriage proposal or other romantic or sexual advances; land disputes; perceived dishonor; and jealousy.  While acid attacks are most prevalent in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and Pakistan, they have also been reported in Afghanistan and in parts of Africa and Europe. Experts attribute the prevalence of the practice in part to the easy availability of acids. (See: Statistics, Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity; Good Practices on Harmful Practices Expert Group Report, p. 22)

  • Legislation addressing acid attacks should include the following elements:
    • Legislation should define an acid attack as any assault perpetrated through the use of acid. Since acid attacks may be motivated by one of several different reasons, legislation should focus on the acts that constitute the crime, rather than the motive;
    • Legislation should penalize anyone who commits an acid attack, specifically including family members among those who may be penalized;
    • Legislation should penalize those who aid and abet this harmful practice, and should include family members among those who may be penalized;
    • Legislation should make acid attacks a “transferable intent” crime, providing the same penalties regardless of whether the person injured was the intended victim;
    • Legislation should provide for penalties of prison time, fines, and education;
    • Legislation should prohibit the acceptance of informal financial settlement or marriage as settlement of claims;
    • Legislation should provide that sentencing guidelines reflect the gravity of the offense;
    • Legislation should provide for enhanced penalties if a victim dies as a result of an acid attack. The perpetrator should be prosecuted under the murder statutes of the penal code. The specific law on the acid attack should provide a term of imprisonment and fine which is no less severe than what is provided under the murder statutes of the general penal code with the exception of capital punishment;
    • Legislation should provide that no mediation provisions are a part of legislation on acid attacks;
    • Legislation should regulate the export, import, use, sale, and waste management of acids;
    • Legislation should require sellers of acids to acquire licenses;
    • Legislation should criminalize the unlicensed sale of acids;
    • Legislation should require sellers of acids to create and maintain a record of each sale and the identity of each purchaser;
    • Legislation should require sellers of acid to take all necessary measures to ensure that their supplies of acid are not stolen and immediately report any stolen acid;
    • Legislation should impose a duty upon medical providers to report all cases of bodily harm caused by acid to law enforcement;
    • Legislation should mandate that police officers investigate any case reported by a medical provider where bodily harm was caused by acid;
    • Legislation should establish and fund public awareness campaigns and training for all sectors about this harmful practice and its consequences;
    • Legislation and other practices that perpetuate this harmful practice, such as honour crimes, should be amended or abolished;
    • Legislation should allow victims to pursue civil remedies against their attackers.  Monetary damages should include the cost of reconstructive surgery;
    • Legislation should provide for restitution or reparations separate from any criminal case and provide mechanisms of collection that the victim may easily use to collect the order for restitution from the perpetrator;
    • Legislation should also provide that a court may amend or issue an order for restitution at a later time if the true extent of the survivor’s loss was not known at the time of the hearing on the restitution request or at the time of disposition of the case; and
    • Legislation should provide legal, financial, medical, and other types of rehabilitation services for victims.
    • Legislation should provide legal support before and during the criminal trial of an acid attack and be extended to victims and witnesses who are threatened by perpetrators or associated parties;
    • Legislation should provide protective measures to prevent harassment, intimidation, or coercion of a victim or witness to drop charges against a perpetrator or associated party;
    • Legislation should provide for expert medical testimony in preparation of and during a criminal trial free of charge. Such expert medical testimony should be allowed in lieu of victim testimony but should not be a pre-requisite to pursuing a legal case against  a perpetrator.

(See: Good Practices on Harmful Practices Expert Group Report, pp. 22-23)

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