Acid throwing, also called an acid attack, a vitriol attack or vitriolage, is a form of violentassault defined as the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another "with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, orkill". Perpetrators of these attacks throw corrosive liquids at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones.
The long term consequences of these attacks may include blindness, as well eye burns, with lots of permanent scarring of the face and body, along with far-reaching social, psychological, and economic difficulties.
Today, acid attacks are reported in many parts of the world, though more commonly in developing countries. Since the 1990s, Bangladesh has been reporting the highest number of attacks and highest incidence rates for women, with 3,512 Bangladeshi people acid attacked between 1999 and 2013, and in Pakistan and India acid attacks are at an all-time high and increasing every year. Although acid attacks occur all over the world, this type of violence is most common in South Asia. The UK has one of the highest rates of acid attacks per capita in the world, according to Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI). In 2016 there were over 601 acid attacks in the UK based on ASTI figures, and 67% of the victims were male, but statistics from ASTI suggest that 80% of victims worldwide are women. Over 1,200 cases were recorded over the past five years. From 2011 to 2016 there were 1,464 crimes involving acid or corrosive substance in London alone.
The intention of the attacker is often to humiliate rather than to kill the victim. In Britain such attacks, particularly those against men, are believed to be underreported, and as a result many of them do not show up in official statistics.
Some of the most common motivations of perpetrators include:
Personal conflict regarding intimate relationships, and sexual rejection
Conflicts over land ownership, farm animals, housing and property
Revenge for refusal of sexual advances, proposals of marriage and demands for dowry
Acid attacks often occur as revenge against a woman who rejects a proposal of marriage or a sexual advance.Gender inequality and women's position in the society, in relation to men, plays a significant role in these types of attacks.
Attacks against individuals based on their religious beliefs or social or political activities also occur. These attacks may be targeted against a specific individual, due to their activities, or may be perpetrated against random persons merely because they are part of a social group or community. In Europe, Konstantina Kouneva, currently a member of the European Parliament, had acid thrown on her in 2008, in what was described as "the most severe assault on a trade unionist in Greece for 50 years." Female students have had acid thrown in their faces as a punishment for attending school. Acid attacks due to religious conflicts have been also reported. Both males and females have been victims of acid attacks for refusing to convert to another religion.
Conflicts regarding property issues, land disputes, and inheritance have also been reported as motivations of acid attacks. Acid attacks related to conflicts between criminal gangs occur in many places, including the UK, Greece, and Indonesia.