Friday, April 11, 2014

Colombia: Acid-Throwing Becoming a Tactic to Even Personal Scores, 22 Attacks Reported in 2014

According to The Latin American Post, the 28-year-old victim of an acid-throwing attack recalls vividly the acid attack five years ago that left her with severe burns to her face, chest and hands, and cost her the use of her left eye.

Although these acid-throwing attacks are more likely to be associated with attacks agsinst women in such countries as Bangladesh or Pakistan, thus far this year, Colombia has reported 22 acid-throwing attacks.

In a bizarre development, few Colombian authorities have an explanation for the rise of acid attacks since 2010, when 55 attacks were reported, and 42 in 2011. 

The Colombian Institute of Legal Medicine registered 55 such attacks in 2010 and 42 in 2011.

According to Ms. Hernández, who belongs to a local acid-survivors group, the real number of unreported attacks is actually much higher.

"We know of many cases that were never reported because of threats, because of fear," she told the BBC.

COMMENT: By comparison, it is estimated that more than 150 women have had acid thrown on them annually in Pakistan, whose population is nearly four times that of Colombia. 

Yet, Colombia is slowly beginning to come to terms with acid attacks, as a strange and brutal  form of gender-based violence.

"The aim is to harm, not to kill. And to harm somebody for the rest of her life," says Hernández, who blames her former husband for her plight. 

"He wanted us to get back together but I refused. So he used to call me, to threaten me. On the day of the attack he followed me." 

Hernández' husband did not throw the acid himself, but cowardly pointed her out to hired assailants.

Acid attacks on two young children have given further cause for concern.
The really sad part of this disfiguring crime is that very, very few assailants have been arrested, let alone convicted.  

Many victims of acid-throwing in Colombia often blame the media on sensationalizing attacks, yet not pushing authorities to arrest and convict offenders, urging reforms in the penal code and setting up surveillance cameras in public areas.

Under current Colombian legislation, dousing a woman in acid is a "personal attack," a crime punishable with a maximum of 10 years in prison, yet one that qualifies offenders to actually be paroled.

For women who believe they have been targeted for acid-throwing, please consider the following:

1. Face the fact that an acid attack is reality that you must confront;

2. Be predictably observant of all people you see on the street, particularly those looking at you intensely; 

3. Be particularly vigilant of suspicious people that may be transporting by hand a suspicious liquid, as in the form of a jar, cup or other device that acid could be transported in;

4. Be observant of suspicious people who may be carrying photos with which to identify you;

5. Always carry a light portfolio or purse that you can use to deflect a liquid attack on you;

6. If you are attacked in an acid-throwing incident, report the attack by calling the police emergency number even if you are not physically harmed;

7. It is essential to get an acid victim to a hospital asap. Otherwise, in worst cases, the acid can penetrate the bone which could be fatal for your life;

8. The most important thing you can do is seek immediate first aid; wash the affected body part with plenty of fresh or saline water;

9. Don’t rinse the burn area with dirty water as it can cause severe infection;

10. Keep flushing the affected burn area with plenty of cool water,(not very cold) until the patient’s burning sensation starts fading. It may take 30-45 minutes; 

11. Remove all the jewelry or clothing which had contact with acid;

12. Don’t apply any kind of cream, ointment on the affected area as it may slow the treatment procedure by physicians;

13. If possible, use sterilized gauze to loosely wrap the affected area. The gauze protects the skin from air, debris, dirt and contamination; and

14. Rush the patient to a burn specialty hospital having isolated wards for burn patients.