Acid Attacks and the Male Domination In America, we are used to the free, predominantly equal lifestyles that we lead. We are protected by a Government that feels that all should receive justice, protection and freedom under one law. For many Americans, we are in a bubble that blinds us from the world outside of the streets that we live in, the state where we preside, and the country that makes us free. According to Jane Fonda, in the world s most densely populated country, Bangladesh, there is a completely different economic and legal system. (Fonda) Bangledeshi Women still live under the standards of fixed marriages and dowries. They are almost completely ignored by the Bangladesh legal system, so when they are brutally attacked, the government simply looks the other way and pretends that they have not seen a terribly disfigured woman standing at their doorstep begging for help.
This horrible disfigurement comes from acid attacks. The skin melts away, the muscle disappears and what is left is simply bone. They lose their faces, noses and eyelids. Many lose their sight and their hearing. Some women even die. The culprit of these horrible realities is sulfuric acid. Woman are typically attacked by the acid at night when they are least expecting it. They are attacked because they dared to say no. Girls as young as thirteen years old are attacked because they reject the advances of significantly older men. Other woman are attacked because of a dispute over the dowry, in other words, the payment received by the man s family from the woman s family for the marriage of the daughter. The attack is often just an assault on the girl s father. The daughter is viewed as property of the family. If the dowry is rejected by the
attacks the woman with the mind-set that if I can t have her, nobody can . They throw sulfuric acid on the girl in order to make them damaged goods, so to speak. A disfigured woman will not get a dowry. They are terribly disfigured and will probably not be married at all. Women who are usually involved in the attacks are poor and their families depend on a good marriage so that the woman is no longer dependent upon her birth parents for support. A woman who is a victim of an acid attack is a financial burden on a family that has little money to begin with and with no hope of marrying her off, they are stuck with a member of the family who is most likely uneducated and not wanted in the community. A woman who has been attacked is often looked at as a social pariah, or outcast, and sometimes is blamed for the attack, as if it were her fault that acid was thrown on her face in order to disfigure it.
According to Chung, there is only one hospital in Bangladesh that has a burn unit. (Chung) Dhaka Medical College Hospital, has only a few beds for women and there are not nearly enough to hold all of the burn victims that come in everyday. There is surgery that can be done to repair the damage done by the sulfuric acid, but it is much too expensive for many of the families to afford. Chung says that an average surgery is between four and five hours and usually the women requires several surgeries for any improvement to be made. Surgery is approximately $100 an hour, and this is expected to be paid by families whose average income is about $25 a month (Chung).
There are several organizations that are reaching out to these burn victims who have no money to spend on surgery. The Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples, a human rights association that is based out of Hong Kong, has been leading a world-wide quest to urge legislation to make immediate arrangements for improved care of acid burns and rehabilitation for women in Bangladesh. People involved with the Woman and Child Repression Control Act, have
been arguing with Bangladesh legislation to make acid attacks a crime that can be punished by the death penalty. The law was passed but it does not seem to be effective in reducing the attacks because there are many loopholes in the law and most cases are not taken seriously by authorities (Fonda).
Experts say that three to five women a week are being burned with acid in Bangladesh (Chung). In 1996, there were perhaps 50 cases. There were 100 cases a year after. And 200 cases last year. So it appears to be doubling… This is what John Morrison, executive director of the newly formed Acid Survivors Foundation had to say about the statistics for acid attacks in recent years (Chung). This is a horrendous statistic that keeps growing and growing. Women have found themselves helpless in these situations. Although there are laws to protect them, they are rarely enforced, and men are hardly ever prosecuted. Women in Bangladesh are powerless and are regarded much lower than men, so an attempt by a woman to put a man in jail is almost laughable. Many times the attacks are not reported because woman are convinced by authorities to withdraw the report and many Bangledeshi authorities do not take the reports seriously. It is incredible to think that in America, we complain about unequal wages and discrimination in the job force, when woman in other countries are complaining about things that are far worse than what we consider to be a hardship.
So what is the measure of equality? For each person it is different. In Bangladesh, women would seemingly be content if the had the chance to be free from a social system that forces them to marry men that are old enough to father them, fails to protect them from angry, revengeful men, and persecutes them for an attack that surely is not their fault. In America, we are blinded by women activists, posters of naked women and bills in the senate to make abortion illegal. As American women, we sometimes are so distracted by the daily hustle and bustle , that we forget that there is a world outside of our comfort zones and there are horrendous things
occurring outside the walls of our homes and offices. As a society, we need to make a conscious effort to be more aware of what is going on in the world, and as women, we need to stand up for the rights of our sex, in America, as well as in other countries. Women of Bangladesh are burned
everyday, let us never forget this tragic occurrence, and never fail to try to help a fellow woman in need of help.
Fonda, Jane. Jane Fonda on Sanctioned Violence Against Woman. Oprah Show. Online. 29 Sep. 2000
Woman in Bangladesh Subjected to Acid Attacks. TBH Communications. Online. 16 May 1999