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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 13:37 GMT
Bangladesh acid attacks soar
Police beat a protester in Dhaka
The breakdown of law and order could be connected
By the BBC's Alistair Lawson in Dhaka

Figures released by the Acid Survivors Foundation in Bangladesh show that the number of acid attacks jumped 50% in 2001 from the previous year.

There were 338 attacks throughout Bangladesh last year, most carried out against women fleeing arranged marriages, the foundation said.

But, in some cases, children and men have been victimised too.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has denounced the attacks

The practice of throwing acid has been described by the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, as a disgrace to her country. Victims are often left horrifically disfigured and scarred for life.

The Acid Survivors Foundation has arranged for two British plastic surgeons to treat people who have been attacked, and they are now operating on patients.

The foundation's executive director, John Morrison, said that while the latest figures made gloomy reading, there have been some positive developments in the battle to stop acid attacks.

Special courts

"The new government came into office on the first of October and they have already moved," he said.

"They are setting up special courts to deal with acid violence. They are passing special laws to prohibit the sale of acid to unauthorised people.

"They're ensuring that the law enforcing agencies act on this."

So far at least, two people have been sentenced to death in recent months for carrying out acid attacks in Bangladesh.

It is not clear whether the rise in the number of attacks is in any way connected with the widescale breakdown of law and order in the country over the last year.

Some commentators say those who carry out the attacks may not be fully aware of the pain and suffering they cause, and that the problem can never be eradicated unless people are properly educated.

See also:

12 Aug 01 | South Asia
Patrols against Kashmir acid attacks
10 Aug 01 | South Asia
Kashmir women face acid attacks
30 Mar 98 | S/W Asia
Bangladesh approves new assault laws
14 Aug 00 | Middle East
Eye for an eye justice
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