For women around the world, the threat of an acid attack is all-too-often a very real possibility. But for one particular woman in India, this threat has reappeared again and again.
After surviving four acid attacks and an alleged gang rape, a 35 year-old mother from India’s Uttar Pradesh province was attacked with the chemical outside a women’s hostel in Lucknow this weekend, the fifth time in her life she's undergone such an attack.
Her attacker scaled the wall of the women’s hostel in Uttar Pradesh and poured the chemical on the woman while she was filling water at the hand pump, according to her BBC testimony.
The woman, who remains anonymous for legal reasons, was taken to the hospital where doctors are treating burn injuries to her face, neck and shoulder.
Two men first attacked the woman with acid back in 2008 over a property dispute, and subsequently in 2012 and 2013 to try to force her to drop the charges against them. In March, the woman was forced to drink acid while on a train with one of her daughters and under 24-hour police protection.
The men were released on bail in April and await trial for the first four attacks.
The woman was still receiving full-time police protection because of the attacks, but armed forces were not allowed in the women’s hostel. Anger at the authorities’ inability to protect her is growing.
Nearly 300 cases of acid attacks were reported in India in 2015, but campaigners say the actual number of attacks is much higher. The Acid Survivors Trust International estimates approximately 1,000 cases of acid attacks take place each year in India alone.
Women are most often the victims of these chemical attacks and have to live with the disfigurements caused by the chemical for the rest of their lives, according to campaigners. Property disputes and revenge over spurned marriage proposals account for the majority of the attacks, which are mostly carried out by men.
Acid attacks against women occur around the world, but Southeast Asia reports the highest proportion. While Bangladesh’s strict laws have lowered the number of acid attacks in recent years, leading to a steady decline of 20 to 30% in the past few years, the number of reported chemical attacks have increased in India, even since enacting laws to reduce access to acid.
India addressed the issue in 2013, passing strict laws against acid attacks, including a top-level court banning the sale of acid to the public.
However, critics say the chemical is still widely and readily available.
Experts say this represents the tip of the iceberg. All eyes are on India to see how the country responds to this latest attack and what path India takes toward someday ending acid attacks.