Avon Global Center examines acid attacks against women and girls in Bangladesh Cambodia and India
A report by the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School, the New York City Bar Association, the Cornell International Human Rights Clinic and Virtue Foundation
Acid violence involves intentional acts of violence in which perpetrators throw, spray, or pour acid onto victims’ faces and bodies. Through a comparative study of Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia the report demonstrates that acid violence is a form of gender-based violence prohibited by the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). As parties to CEDAW, Bangladesh, India and Cambodia have a legal obligation to exercise due diligence to prevent attacks, punish perpetrators, and compensate victims. Acid is easily and cheaply available in countries where acid attacks are prevalent. The report finds that a key to combating acid violence is to curb the easy availability of acid. Governments should adopt legislation to make it difficult for potential perpetrators of attacks to obtain acid.
Governments must end the widespread impunity enjoyed by perpetrators by adopting and effectively implementing laws that provide for appropriate prosecution and punishment. When acid attacks do occur, governments are obligated under international law to provide redress to victims, which should include much-needed compensation to victims for healthcare and other costs. In all three countries studied, survivors face immense challenges in obtaining adequate healthcare.
Evidence suggests a higher incidence of acid attacks near areas where industries that use acid are located (such as cotton industries in Pakistan and rubber industries in Cambodia). Businesses can play a crucial rule in curbing acid misuse, including by adopting procedures that are aimed at ensuring that acid is not stolen from them and placing warning labels on acid containers advising users of its harmful effects and legal penalties that may ensue from its misuse. The report outlines other concrete measures that governments and businesses should take to prevent acid violence. We hope that this report contributes to a renewed urgency to end these horrific acts of violence.