Acid violence: Bring the perpetrators to book

Although it was possible to reduce the acid violence through social movements and public awareness in the past, there have been some incidents of acid throwing recently. This is worrying.

A victim of acid attack, pregnant housewife Mili from Matlab upazila in Chandpur has been undergoing treatment at Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute, says a Prothom Alo report. Apart from the physical pain, she is worried about the unborn child too.

Mili got married to a young man, who works in Saudi Arabia, 10 months ago and is currently eight months pregnant. As she came to her father’s house from her in-laws’ home 10 days ago, a married youth, Shafiqul Islam, threw acid on her. Police arrested Shafiq. Mili’s father has alleged that another youth, who is also an expatriate worker in Saudi Arabia, is behind the acid attack as well.

Mili is currently undergoing treatment at a hospital but Sadia Akhtar, who sustained acid burns in Madaripur’s Shibchar upazila in September last year, could not survive. Sadia’s former husband threw acid on her after hearing about her marriage elsewhere. In another incident last December, three miscreants publicly threw acid on a woman in Old Dhaka over a land dispute. Though a case was registered, the police could not arrest the accused.

Speakers at a discussion titled ‘Anti-acid dialogue: What to be done to eradicate acid-violence’ at the Prothom Alo office August last year expressed their concerns over the increasing number of acid attacks.

The number of people with acid injuries in 2002 was 496, which had decreased greatly due to the roles of various social organisations, and the media and government legislation. In 2018, the number of acid victims was 22 but it increased to 29 in 2022.

Women, followed by children, are the main victims of acid attacks. According to a Prothom Alo report, 60 per cent of acid victims in the last 24 years are women, while the rest are children and men. Currently, around 600 cases are pending in the Acid crime prevention tribunal. Fourteen people were sentenced to death. However, no one was executed.

According to the police headquarters data, 238 lawsuits have been registered in the country between 2017 and July 2023 under the Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2002. Besides, according to the data of Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), a non-governmental organisation, 3,870 people sustained acid-burns in the country in 23 years from 1999 to 2022. In 2023, eight women, three men and two children were the victims of acid-violence.

Two subsections of section 5 of the Acid Crimes Prevention Act, 2002 stipulated that the punishment of the offender should be in proportion to the amount of damage caused by an acid attack. It mentioned about a minimum of seven years' jail and a maximum of life imprisonment or death penalty. According to Section 6 of the act, a perpetrator shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a minimum of two years and imprisonment for a maximum of seven years for throwing or attempting to throw acid. And according to Section 7, any person aiding in the offence shall also be punished with the prescribed penalty.

Acid-violence is a heinous crime and a major social problem. Due to patriarchy women are the main victims of acid-violence. Social movement and public awareness should be continued along with the punishment of criminals in every case to save the society from this disease of acid-violence. This has to begin from the family.