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Last Updated:  Saturday, 8 March, 2003, 14:56 GMT
Acid attack victims rally in Dhaka
By Waliur Rahman
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

A 16-year-old victim of an acid attack addresses a rally in Dhaka
Some victims say death is better than living with disfigurement
Acid attack victims in Bangladesh have staged a demonstration in Dhaka to draw attention to their plight.

Their rally marked International Women's Day, which is being celebrated by women's rights organisations across the country.

Aid workers say the problem of acid violence against Bangladeshi women is still growing despite widespread campaigning and enforcement of stricter laws.

More than 200 acid attack victims demonstrated outside the National Press Club in central Dhaka.

They formed a human chain and staged a street play highlighting the causes of attacks and the plight of the victims.

New weapon

Aid workers say it is difficult to get reliable information from rural areas, but evidence suggests that acid attacks are increasing alarmingly throughout the country.

I feel so bad and reduced when people give me a different look... that's why I always wear a burqa when I go out
Rubina Akhter, acid attack victim

The Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), which helps to rehabilitate victims, says it recorded 485 attacks in 2002, a 42% increase on the previous year.

In 2001, 341 people suffered from acid attacks, while the figure was 222 in 2000.

"There are cases of acid-throwing in other countries, but these are isolated incidents, nowhere near the number of attacks that occurs in Bangladesh every year," the ASF said.

There is evidence that acid is replacing guns and knives as an instrument of attack.

Raising awareness

Around 80% of the victims are women - most have had sulphuric or hydrochloric acid thrown in their faces.

The law says convicted attackers could be sentenced to death.

Victims say sometimes death is preferable to survival with horrific disfigurement.

"I feel so bad and reduced when people give me a different look. And that's why I always wear a Burqa when I go out," said Rubina Akhter, a young girl.

She was attacked by her cousin when she spurned his romantic advances.

But aid workers say severe punishment alone will not eliminate the problem. They say the crime will persist unless social awareness is created.

Organisers of Saturday's demonstration say the event was aimed at creating precisely that awareness on the day that highlights women's causes around the world.

UN critical of Bangladesh justice
15 Sep 02 |  South Asia
Bangladesh acid attacks soar
30 Jan 02 |  South Asia

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