On March 17, 2021 at roughly 8:15pm, 21 year old college student Nafiah Fatima was walking on the driveway of her residence in Elmont, New York. Suddenly, she was approached by a male holding a white cup with a dark substance. He splashed the substance onto Nafiah’s face and ran away. Her tongue and throat began burning, preventing her from breathing. Her contact lenses melted into her eyes, ruining her vision. When her parents attempted to help her, they burned their forearms and hands too. With that one moment, Nafiah's life was ruined. Just like many other women around the world, Nafiah had become the victim of an acid attack.
Acid attacks are a form of gender based violence where acid is thrown at a victim, usually aiming for the face. The perpetrators of these attacks aim to disfigure their female victims, rather than kill them with the patriarchal reasoning that a woman’s appearance is her only valuable asset. This is especially true in cultures such as South Asian culture, where the cause of an acid attack is often due to a woman dishonouring her husband, rejecting a marriage claim or sexual advancement. Victims in these cultures lose their families and their disfigurement then becomes a public mark of shame, making it hard for them to get married or gain employment.
Acid attacks have been traced back to the 1700s, which is when sulfuric acids factories began being built. In a society already led by men, men wanted more power. They wanted more control. And some still do. Even in the most modernized cities like London, which is often called the “acid attack hotspot of the western world,” acid attacks still occur. They take away a woman’s confidence. They “assert dominance” over women. They contribute to a patriarchal society that has been around for centuries.