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Girls & Women

It's Now Illegal to Possess Potentially Lethal Acid Without a Licence in the UK


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Acid attacks are a huge problem in the UK and around the world. Globally, women are disproportionately affected — with about 80% of attacks directed at women and girls. But laws and regulations to address the issue are a great step in combatting gender-based violence. Join us by taking action here to support gender equality and an end to violence against women and girls everywhere. 

It’s now a criminal offence in the UK to possess potentially lethal acid without a licence — with offenders facing up to two years in prison. 

People in possession of sulphuric acid above a concentration of 15% and without a licence need to dispose of the acid safely, or face prosecution. 

The change came into force on Nov. 1, in an effort to combat a rising numbers of acid attacks across the country. 

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“Acid attacks are utterly appalling crimes and we are determined to put a stop to them,” said crime minister Victoria Atkins. 

“Sulphuric acid can be a very dangerous substance,” she added. “We are taking this threat seriously and are making it harder to possess and purchase corrosive substances.” 

“The changes we have introduced will help to ensure that sulphuric acid is kept away form those who mean harm,” she said, adding that she’s “sure all retailers will enforce the new restrictions.” 

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For those using the acid for their trade or business, they don’t reportedly need a licence, but may be asked to provide evidence of their use.

There were more than 400 recorded acid attacks in England and Wales in the six months leading up to April 2017, meaning that the UK has one of the highest number of recorded acid attacks per person of any country in the world. 

While it’s not a new crime in Britain — with the first reported attack dating back to 1736 — there’s been a 90% increase in acid violence in the UK over the past decade, and the number of attacks has more than trebled since 2014. 

A number of high profile acid attacks have brought the issue firmly into the spotlight — including aspiring model Resham Khan, and her cousin Jameel Muhktar, who suffered life-changing injuries when a man threw acid through their car window in an unprovoked attack in east London in June 2017. 

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Activist Katie Piper has also been instrumental in raising awareness around the issue. 

Piper was attacked with sulphuric acid in her early 20s, in March 2008, in an attack orchestrated by an abusive and violent ex-boyfriend. 

Since then, Piper has spoken openly about her experience and launched the Katie Piper Foundation in 2009 — aiming to help create a world where “scars do not limit a person’s function, social inclusion, or sense of well-being.” 

Acid attacks are a huge problem in the UK and around the world — and women and girls are disproportionately affected globally. 

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Worldwide, about 80% of acid attacks are directed at girls and women and — as with Piper’s experience — are often carried out by partners or ex-partners. 

“Attacks are often an escalation of domestic violence and rooted in gender equality, manifesting as land disputes, suspicions of infidelity, family, and ‘honour’ disputes and rivalry,” says the Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI) on its website

“It reflects and perpetuates discrimination of women and girls in society, and as such it is prohibited by international law,” it adds. “However, all too often it’s a crime that goes unreported and unpunished: survivors of acid attacks live in fear of reprisals for reporting the attack.”