A 21-year-old aspiring Muslim model was out celebrating her 21st birthday when a stranger threw acid into her car at a traffic signal in London, United Kingdom. Resham Khan, along with her 37-year-old cousin Jameel Muhktar, suffered severe burns. In fact, it took Khan over two months of treatment to be able to share her images on social media, proving her utter resilience in the face of adversity.
While her recovery is certainly remarkable, not all acid attack victims have had the same fortune – and unfortunately, there has been a massive rise in the number of acid attack in the U.K. in past couple of years. According to the London Metropolitan Police, there were more than 700 acid attacks last year in the city alone.
“What we have seen in the last few years is an escalation in the number of acid attacks,” Jaf Shah, the executive director of Acid Survivors Trust International, told Carbonated.TV. “So, approximately, three years ago, we had in original about 200 – 250 recorded attacks, so numbers have effectively doubled over the last few years.”
Globally, 80 percent of acid attack victims are women and girls. However, a large number of victims in the U.K. have actually been men.
Nevertheless, just like the rest of the world, most perpetrators tend to be male. Most researchers categorize acid violence as a form of gender-based violence, but in essence, it all boils down to toxic masculinity and the desire to disfigure someone in a display of power and cruelty.
What makes the entire situation even worse is the lack of tough laws against perpetrators and strict measures for the purchase of corrosive substances – something that activists and advocates are now pressuring the British government to amend.
“In the U.K., we don’t actually have specific laws around sentencing of acid attack perpetrators, nor do we have very good controls around sale of acid,” Shah explained. “Sentencing in the U.K. around acid attacks is also very inconsistent because judges will factor any previous good behavior and no previous convictions.”
The clampdown on weapons, such as guns and knives, has also exacerbated the issue, making acid a weapon of choice for many.
“To really bring about a long term solution to the problem we need to address the underlying causes and that’s the issue relating to young men and ideas around masculinity,” Shah concluded. “Wreally need to tackle this issue of why young men are resorting to violence and in this case, specifically, acid attacks.”
Watch the video above to learn more about the epidemic of acid attacks in the U.K. and what steps should be taken in order to curb it.
Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI) is a “not-for-profit charity and the only international organization whose sole purpose is to end acid violence at a global level. ASTI was founded in 2002 and has worked with a network of six local partners in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Uganda that it has helped to form. ASTI has helped provide medical expertise and training to our partners, conducted valuable evidence based research, raised valuable funds to support survivors of acid attacks and helped change laws.”
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