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Acid Attacks Rise in London, Prompting International Disscussion

Acid attacks: they’re nothing short of horrific and with easy access to the weapon, acid attacks have become a serious problem throughout the world. There was a time when most people who thought of acid attacks associated them with India and the Middle East. Now acid attacks are on the rise in Europe, forcing Westerners to take a look.

Acid attacks are assaults using a number of acids, such as sulfuric. They are usually committed by splashing, spraying or pouring the agent on someone. Sometimes knives will be dipped in acid before a stabbing to do more damage.

Acid attacks in Europe have risen due to gang violence, but they are also committed for intimidation or domestic violence. Hospital visits for acid attacks in England have nearly doubled and while two-thirds of U.K. acid attack victims are due to gang violence, worldwide, 80% of victims are female.

Women are often targeted due to rejecting sexual or romantic advances of men or for the reasons of land disputes, intimidation or refusal to pay dowry. Women are often targeted in this way specifically because they are perceived as caring more about beauty. Acid attacks permanently mar a person’s appearance.

Vice interviewed an anonymous London gang member who recounted the time him and his friend attacked a man and his girlfriend. When asked why he attacked the girl as well he replied, “She’s his baby mum, innit. Like, if I can’t damage you enough, I’m coming for your people.” According to him “If someone got acid in their face, trust me, they did something… they deserved that.”

“On a girl, they love their beauty, so hurt them in it. ‘Cause on a guy, if you get scarred, it’s a scar, like, you show it to your guys. ‘Yeah, this happened to me innit. Yeah, it’s nothing, it’s nothing.’ But when it’s a girl, ‘Look at my face!’ So if I were to use it, nine times out of ten, I’ll use it on a girl.”

Recently, a Muslim woman, Resham Khan and her cousin Jameel Mukhtar were attacked with acid in London while waiting in traffic. Channel 4 News interviewed a tearful Mukhtar while he recounted the incident. “It’s definitely a hate crime, I believe it’s something to do with Islamophobia […] I honestly feel that if this was a white person that got attacked by an Asian person, he’d be caught within 24 hours. It would be all over the news. There’d be a national manhunt.”

Another London woman was attacked with acid while pregnant. After her boyfriend was attacked, the acid was sprayed over her belly in an attempt to not only hurt the couple, but also their unborn child.

According to former gang member, now youth activist, Jermaine Lawlor, “Using acid, you’re going to cause a person to be a victim for life. And if you get caught, you’re not going to get that harsh a sentence compared to if you were carrying a knife.”

There were 454 acid attacks just in London last year. In 2015, the 1972 Poisons Act was cut by the Deregulation Act, possibly leading to the acid attack spike in 2016. The Deregulation Act made it to where sellers of acid do not have to have a license or register with their local counsel. This has made it easier for acid to be purchased for the attacks.

However, events have fostered new dialogue on the matter. Many people who carry out acid attacks are minors, therefore many people think that restricting the sale of acid to minors is the way to go. As for adult attackers, victims and advocates are fighting for harsher punishment and for the law to codify carrying acid in similar ways to carrying knives. It is hoped that through these measures, they can reduce the number of attacks and possibly give closure to the victims.

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