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Fighting Rising Acid Attacks Against Women in Colombia

[Links are to Spanish-language pages.]

New acid attacks occurring in the last several weeks have put Colombians on alert. Despite the fact that legislation was adopted in 2013 stiffening the penalty for such actions, they appear insufficient to stop the rising tide of incidents of this type, which have claimed 926 victims in the last 10 years. For all these cases, only three culprits have been sentenced. 

Recently, a media storm erupted following an acid attack against Natalia Ponce, a young women from a well-to-do family who was assaulted by someone she knew; he was later caught. The incident provoked reaction on Twitter and in different media, where the outcry against abuse of women was unanimous:

Inadmisible el ataque con ácido a Natalia Ponce! Mañana puede ser cualquier. #NiUnaMás Necesitamos una justicia MÁS FUERTE!

— Mariana Cordoba (@MariCordoba) marzo 29, 2014 

Unacceptable this acid attack against Natalia Ponce! Tomorrow it could be anybody. No one more. We need STRONGER LAWS!

Que tristeza, que impotencia y que cobardía esos ataques con ácido a las mujeres, es una modalidad que me deja perplejo y sin palabras.

— julian orrego (@julianrocka) abril 1, 2014

Sadness, helplessness and cowardice [I feel for] these acid attacks against women; it is a method that leaves me perplexed and speechless.

Después de India y Pakistán, Colombia es el tercer país en el mundo con más ataques a mujeres con ácido.

— Andrea Bernal (@andrebernal26) abril 7, 2014 

After India and Pakistan, Colombia is the country with the third highest rate of acid attacks against women.

The blog “Rostros sin Ácido” [Faces without acid] shows pictures of various women who have been attacked and who, as they demonstrate, “have decided to reveal themselves in order to sensitize society and demand government policies that will enable them to remake their lives”:

Gina Potes, de 35 años

Gina Potes, 35 years old

Viviana Hernández, de 28 años

Viviana Hernández, 28 years old

Nubia Espita, de 33 años

Nubia Espita, 33 years old

Nevertheless, the blog ¿Quién se beneficia de tu hombría? [Who benefits from your masculinity] demonstrates that the matter is not exclusively directed at women and, after denouncing the stigmatization, affirms:

Todo esto resulta llamativo porque de los 926 casos de ataques con ácido registrados en el país durante los últimos diez años, entre las víctimas hay 471 mujeres y 455 varones. Es decir, los hombres constituyen el 49% de los agredidos, pero apenas han recibido atención mediática o política.

All this is noteworthy because of the 926 cases of acid attacks confirmed in the country during the last ten years, there are 471 female victims and 455 male victims. In other words, men make up 49% of those assaulted, but they have received almost no media or political attention. 

Following the attack on Natalia Ponce, there were two more: on April 2, Sorleny Pulgarín, a 23-year old woman was attacked with acid in the Engativá neighbourhood, South of Bogota. This was followed by the unfortunate death on April 9 of Alejandro Correa after he was doused with acid in the town of la Estrella, Antioquia, supposedly out of jealousy.  

The authorities discovered the alleged lie by Inés Carrillo, who apparently faked being a victim of an acid attack in order to receive the $38,900 (75 million pesos) indemnity offered by the government. The story generated strong reactions against her:

La ignorancia y avaricia de Ines Carrillo presunta victima de ataque con ácido la podria llevar a la cárcel.

— Wilmar Perea S. (@wilpersi0611) abril 16, 2014
 

The ignorance and greed of Ines Carrillo, supposed victim of an acid attack might just land her in jail.

Ms Ines Carrillo was not attacked by acid, she burned herself in a household accident, her family wanted compensation.

Meanwhile, associations have formed and new initiatives have been proposed to fight these attacks, which affect victims both physically and psychologically. However, people continue to demand solutions, as does “El Profe” in his comment on the El Líder.com site, where he asks that the sale of dangerous chemicals be restricted:

Se debe prohibir la venta libre de este producto igual como lo hacen con las armas, su venta es supervisada por el ejercito, se debe tomar registro de los vehículos que se les cambie el acido y la policía debe ser conocedora de estos.
 

The sale of this product should be prohibited just as it is done for weapons, whose sale is supervised by the army, there should be a register of vehicles whose acid has been changed and the police should be aware of it.

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