Measures must be introduced to curb the spread of acid attacks on young women

Politicians need to decide whether new legislation is required to deal with this crime before it spreads.

The acid attack on model Katie Piper in 2008 was the first high profile assault of acid violence in the UK.

Earlier this month, a fifteen year old boy was charged with an acid attack on a woman in Romford, London, and last year model Naomi Oni (pictured) suffered an acid assault also in East London.

At the time of the attack on Piper, this type of crime was almost unheard of in the UK. Now, alarmingly, they appear to be on the increase.

Internationally, most victims are young women in countries such as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Uganda, who are assaulted as revenge or punishment.

Children are also frequently victims, targeted as a mechanism of controlling and hurting their mothers.

The effect is to inflict lifelong physical and psychological injury, impacting women’s future capacity for work, and to form relationships, and have partners and families of their own.

Fortunately victims in wealthy Western countries often have the resources to secure treatment for their physical and psychological injuries. However women in poorer countries often face total incapacity.

Apart from the impact on a woman’s looks, injuries frequently include visual impairment or blindness or loss of eyes. The acid, thrown into the face, is frequently swallowed causing severe oral, and throat injuries, as well as damage to hands, causing disability.

Although the trend of acid violence is increasing in the UK, there is no clear pattern of the context in which it occurs, as there is internationally. The international contexts for these attacks are family, domestic, and relationship factors, as seen in the case of Katie Piper.

There is a case for more research due to the devastating impact of this crime on individuals and families. The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust  published a report by barrister Shabina Begum, on the international picture for acid violence, calling for the UK to conduct large scale research to understand the emergence of this crime in the UK.

There is a need to identify high risk victims in the UK, as it is recognized that some instances of this crime are going unreported in the UK. Identification of the source of the acid and ensure steps are taken to reduce the availability of corrosive substances.

The recent episodes involving young British women resist inevitable conclusions that this is a ‘minority’ problem, rather than a concern for the mainstream population.

In addition to research, politicians need to decide whether new legislation is required to deal with this crime before it spreads.

Source: NHS Information Centre

Graph Claudia

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