Committee Reports

Combating Acid Violence in Bangladesh, India and Cambodia (February 2011)

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Acid violence involves intentional acts of violence in which perpetrators throw, spray, or pour acid onto victims’ faces and bodies. This Report examines acid violence in Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia from an international human rights perspective. Using this framework, it identifies the causes of acid violence and suggests practical solutions to address them. Acid violence is prevalent in these countries because of three related factors: gender inequality and discrimination, the easy availability of acid, and impunity for acid attack perpetrators.

Acid violence is gender-based violence that reflects and perpetuates the inequality of women in society and as such is prohibited by international law. To eradicate acid violence, governments must address its root causes—inequality and discrimination against women. In the short-term, governments should take the following actions to address acid violence: (1) enact laws that adequately punish perpetrators of attacks and limit the easy availability of acid, (2) enforce and implement those laws, and (3) provide redress to victims, including compensation for healthcare costs. Bangladesh is the only country among the three countries studied to adopt specific criminal laws and procedures relating to acid attacks and to enact particular laws to curb the easy availability of acid. Neither Cambodia nor India has adopted such legislation. Since Bangladesh adopted those laws in 2002, the rate of acid violence has decreased by 15% to 20% each year, while acid attacks continue to rise in Cambodia and India.

Acid attacks occur at higher rates in locations where factories use acid in their manufacturing processes. Together with governments, businesses and other industrial users of acid can play an important role in curbing the criminal use of acid. Businesses that produce, distribute, or otherwise use acid must ensure that their activities do not have negative human rights impacts. Companies can contribute to combating acid violence by, among other things, adopting procedures to ensure the proper safekeeping and labeling of acid containers and supporting government and industry efforts to regulate its transfer and proper disposal.

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