Haseena Hussain at the CSAAAW protest in Bangalore

Last week a young woman from Mysore was doused with a bottle of hydrochloric acid and then forced to drink a mixture of acid and alcohol. No one was surprised. Her husband had abused her for years, she had even lodged a series of complaints with the police in the months before the final attack. Two days ago Hina Fathima died in a Mysore hospital.

Acid violence is increasingly common across South Asia and cases like Fathima’s are common enough that they often don’t even make the front page of local newspapers. The Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women, or CSAAAW, has recorded 61 acid attacks in Karnataka since 1999. While most of the women die from their injuries or from suicide some survivors have come out to try to change local laws that make acid cheap and easily available at any corner grocery store. The women who do survive often have to bear terrible medical costs and often lose their eyes, noses, ears and any semblance of facial expression.

Last week I traveled to Bangalore to meet with the founding members of CSAAAW and do a short story for NPR about the prevalence of acid violence and interviewed key people in the campaign. So far the government isn’t really taking the problem seriously. They contend that only a handful of women who are victims of these attacks are not a pressing enough problem. The state sponsored fund meant to pay for the women’s medical care is hardly enough to cover the costs of two or three patients, let along the scores of women in the state who desperately need treatment.

The real danger of acid violence isn’t only the effects that it has on victims, but in the role that it plays in Indian society as a threat. The mainstream media often shows angry men threatening their lovers with acid. Many women I know live in fear that they could be targets of some acid wielding assailant. For 18 rupees anyone can buy a bottle of acid that is 32% concentrated–it’s a weapon that just about anyone can afford and ruing someone’s life is as easy as splashing it in their face.

Click here to listen to the NPR story

I have also posted a small gallery of photos that I took while at the protest that show the range of activists and survivors who have come out to support CSAAAW. I am thinking of taking another trip up to Bangalore to take more photos of these women.

If you want to get in touch directly with CSAAAW contact Sanjana at csaaaw@redifmail.com.