Fighting acid attacks in Bangladesh – Monira Rahman and the “Acid Survivors Foundation”

"Domestic violence issues are neglected and overlooked because they are considered a private issue," says Monira Rahman when asked about the situation of women in Bangladesh. She has made it her prerogative to stop domestic violence and to help women who are victims. But Monira Rahman does not simply focus on any domestic violence – she helps care for and support the victims of acid attacks, which are a common and widespread way of humiliating and hurting women and their families in Bangladesh.

Monira Rahman was born in Bangladesh in 1966. She received her master’s degree in philosophy and later went on to work as a social worker for “Concern Bangladesh”, an organization that challenges poverty and inequality. Early on, Rahman was shocked by the amount and the severity of acid attacks on women throughout the country. She started working for the women’s rights organization “Nari Pokkho” and then joined the “Acid Survivor’s Foundation” in 1998, which she has been Executive Director of since 2002. She is also a member of the National Acid Control Council, where she works rigorously with the government to adopt legislation punishing acid attacks. In her function as Executive Director of the “Acid Survivor’s Foundation”, she addresses acid violence issues in Bangladesh and raises awareness for the situation and the victims.

The “Acid Survivor’s Foundation” currently has eighty employees. In addition to addressing acid violence issues, coordinating rallies and protests and helping raise funds, the Foundation offers survivor support programs. These include, beside medical services, psychological and legal support, as well as encouragement and assistance with reintegrating into society. The Foundation opened a hospital in Bangladesh’s capital, Dakha, with a total of twenty beds. Roughly 700 to 800 victims receive treatment in the clinic each year. Most of the victims are women and children who refused sexual advances or marriage proposals. Rahman describes the reason for acid attacks as follows: “If I take this beauty away from a girl, then no one will marry her. So if this girl is not mine, she will not be anyone else’s.” She further explains that the reason for acid attacks lies in the patriarchal mindset of the Bangladeshi society. Ruining the “worth” a woman ultimately results in social stigmatization and exclusion.

Acid is easily accessible as it is used in the textile industry and in jewelry manufacturing. Not only is it very cheap, but also available in great quantities – and it is very harmful. Acid corrodes skin right down to the bones and leads to terrible burns and blindness when coming into contact with the eyes. The “Acid Survivor’s Foundation” has statistics which show that one acid attack happens every two days in Bangladesh. Monira Rahman has successfully lobbied for anti-acid legislation, which makes it harder to purchase acid. Another bill passed makes acid attacks punishable by law, and thus makes it easier to press charges. Yet she says there are other problems with the acid laws, given the fact that many attacks are made on the victims by their own family members. Victims often refrain from pressing charges against the perpetrator, as acid attackers, if convicted, often face the death penalty.

Monira Rahman and the “Acid Survivor’s Foundation” fight for reintegration and acceptance of victims in society, but have also set an ambitious goal: To end all acid attacks in Bangladesh by 2015.

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4 comments

  1. Arif Ahmed

    I was touched by reading some of the painful story. My question is how we can make awareness of our people about the harmful result of the women. As a Bangladeshi I have been living in Canada for last 17 years. As a Canadian journalist I like to let main stream people to know about the painful result of acid. please let me know if I can do anything for your organization. and your team and you deserve a credit. Keep up your remarkable job and many women will follow you path.

  2. Sunil

    Great Work Monira Rahman. I am from Kathmandu Nepal. No matter where we live you are changing the world from there.. Salute for you :)

  3. mohd humayon chowdhury

    hello there i am a bangladeshi australian live in sydney
    i am absoutely upset about acid attack to owmen and children
    i really wish to contribute something.
    please contact with me.

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