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On the morning of Dec 23 2014, as a 30-year-old doctor was riding to work in New Delhi, two men on a motorcycle intercepted her scooter. While one grabbed her handbag, another sprayed the contents of a syringe at her face. Filled with acid, the corrosive liquid quickly ate through her skin and facial tissue. She is currently undergoing treatment for 50% burn injuries and may lose sight in one eye.

Just 5 days earlier, a small group of people had gathered outside Parliament holding up signs in protest and bearing a list of demands. Survivors and volunteers with the ‘Stop Acid Attacks’ awareness campaign; some were detained by the police and allegedly beaten for not obtaining proper permissions. Topmost among the changes they were calling for was stricter regulation on the availability of acid.

While instances of acid attacks have been reported from nearly all parts of the world, they are particularly endemic to South Asia, with Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Cambodia having the dubious distinction of the highest number of cases. With harsh punishments and strict guidelines controlling the sale of acid, Bangladesh is viewed as a success story in the making, having seen a steady decline of 20-30% in the last few years. In India, however, the number of reported cases has been regularly increasing despite the existence of laws and directives to curb the horrors of acid violence.

Text by Harsimran Gill