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Acid attacks in Bangladesh

In July 2007 Andrew Testa won the Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism for his story on the victims of acid attacks in Bangladesh. The feature was commissioned by Germany's Brigitte magazine and published in the UK by Ei8ht magazine.

Nobisa Begum is fifteen. She learnt early on in life that in Bangladeshi society, her beauty was a priceless asset. But that is in the past. Since then she has lost her face. Her head, torso and arms are covered in open wounds. She refused a marriage proposal. The boy threw acid over her so that no-one else would touch her.

He didn't do anything out of the ordinary. 322 people were the victims of acid attacks in Bangladesh in 2004, with only 36 convictions in the same period. Acid is cheap. You can buy it at every street corner - hydrochloric acid is used as a toilet cleaner, sulphuric acid is used in the textile industry to bleach material, to tan leather, to polish buttons.

The vast majority of acid attacks, which are also common in India and Pakistan, are perpetrated by men against women, for reasons such as the rejection of sexual advances, dowry-related issues and intra-family disputes. Survivors are left permanently disfigured, socially excluded and in many cases destitute.

The Acid Survivors Foundation, a charity based in Dhaka, is fighting for the rights of acid attack victims and offering medical care and counselling. In March 2005, it organised a rally for International Women's Day at which some 5,000 Bangladeshi men marched to denounce violence against women.
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