Naela was 13 in 2003 when her teacher’s friend threw acid on her face, after her family refused his marriage proposal. her life has become a long struggle ever since. She is a survivor like hundreds of other women in Pakistan who have been victim of acid attacks, one of the worst forms of violence against women.
The Acid Survivor foundation (ASF), in Islamabad, recorded 48 similar cases in 2009, but the real number could be higher as many cases remain unreported because of social taboo. When they first arrive to the ASF, most victims are traumatized. The foundation offers them medical assistance as well as psychosocial and legal support to help them reintegrate into the society and get a life as normal as possible.
Acid attacks are reported in many South Asian countries like India, Cambodia or Bangladesh. In Pakistan, most attacks happen around the cotton belt in Southern Punjab, where acid is easy and cheap to find in the market as it is used to clean cotton seeds. Women are the main victims, they get targeted because of family disputes, refusal of a marriage proposal or sexual advances. However men are victims too. They mostly get attacked for revenge following a feud. Some cases of children are reported but, most of the time, the children aren’t the main target, they get injured during an attack on an adult.