Acid Attacks

What is an Acid Attack?

An acid attack, also known as acid throwing.

It is a vitriol attack, or vitriolage, is a form of violent assault. It involves the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another “with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill”. The most common types of acid used in these attacks are sulfuric and nitric acid. These attacks can lead to permanent, partial, or complete blindness.

Acid attacks represent a brutal act of aggression, where acid or another harmful substance is hurled at an individual – predominantly a female – with the malicious intent of inflicting harm, causing pain, or even taking their life.

These attacks, primarily targeted at women and girls, serve as a tool to indelibly mark the victim – they represent an egregious manifestation of violence against females. The motivation behind such attacks often stems from the undue emphasis placed on the physical attractiveness of women and girls.

Women across various nations live under the constant menace of acid attacks. On a global scale, there are roughly 1,500 such attacks recorded annually, but the actual number is likely higher as many incidents go unreported due to fear of retaliation. The highest incidence of these attacks is observed in South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, as well as Egypt, where acid is both cheap and easily accessible.

Acid attacks are a form of violence, in which acid or another corrosive substance is thrown at a person – usually a woman or a girl – with the intention of maiming, torturing or killing them.

Acid attacks perpetrated against women and girls are used as a means to permanently scar the survivor – they are an extreme form of violence against women and girls. They are used because so much bearing is placed on the physical appearance of women and girls.

Women in countries around the world live with the threat of acid attacks. Globally, there are approximately 1,500 acid attacks a year1 , but it is a crime that often goes unreported for fear of reprisal. The greatest prevalence is in south Asian countries including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Egypt where acid remains inexpensive and freely available.

Why acid attacks usually happen to women and girls

Most survivors of acid attacks are women and girls. The most common reasons for attacks on women and girls are the refusal of marriage, the denial of sex, and the sexual rejection of men and boys. It is an expression of control over women’s and girls’ bodies.

In Bangladesh, where ActionAid works, there have been thousands of acid attacks over the last few years. These include young girls trying to escape forced marriage. In most cases people purposely aim for the face – destroying the eyelids so the eyes remain open – as a woman’s face is seen as sacred. Her disfigurement then becomes a public mark of shame, making it hard for her to get married or gain employment.

By harming the face of the survivor, the perpetrator limits their ability to engage in public life and damages their chance of marriage and having children. Acid attacks against women and girls therefore have a multiplied impact because of the reaction of society to the survivor – something that is surely known by the perpetrator prior to the attack.

the statistics for acid attacks in London and worldwide:

In London during 2023, acid attacks have risen by 45% in a year, with the Metropolitan Police recording 107 such attacks. This was up from 74 in 2021. Within the capital, Newham had the highest number of attacks with eight recorded offences, followed by Haringey with seven and then both Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham with six each.

As for the global statistics, it’s a bit more challenging to provide an exact number for 2023 as data collection varies by country and many attacks go unreported. However, I can share some information based on the most recent data available. For instance, in 2018, the United Kingdom reported 501 acid attacks, India reported between 228-1,000 attacks, Colombia reported 100 attacks, and Bangladesh reported91 attacks. Please note that these numbers are from 2018 and the actual numbers for 2023 may be different.


It’s important to note that acid attacks are a serious issue that cause devastating physical and psychological harm. Efforts are being made globally to prevent these attacks, including stricter controls on the availability of corrosive substances and increased public awareness¹⁶.

in London

  • Acid attacks have risen in London by 45% in a year.
  • The Metropolitan Police recorded 107such attacks in 2022, up from 74in 2021.
  • London had the second highest number of recorded attacks in England and Wales in 2022.
  • Within the capital, Newham had the highest number of attacks with eight recorded offences, followed by Haringey with seven and then both
  • United Kingdom: 501 acid attacks in 2018
  • India: Between 228 and 1,000 acid attacks in 2018
  • Colombia: 100 acid attacks in 2018
  • Bangladesh: 91 acid attacks in 2011
  • Pakistan: 80 acid attacks in 2018

Reasons for Acid Attacks

The motivations for acid attacks vary, but they often include hate crime, domestic violence, robbery, torture, punishment, revenge, and terror-related violence. Globally, the majority of acid attack victims are female, often resulting from men exercising coercive control or exacting revenge.

Protection and Response in the event

Preventive measures include advocating for stricter regulations on the sale and purchase of corrosive substances and raising awareness about the severe consequences of these attacks

In the unfortunate event of an acid attack, it’s crucial to act fast. Here are some steps to take:

  1. Report: Call emergency services immediately.
  2. Remove: Carefully remove any contaminated clothing.
  3. Rinse: Rinse the affected skin immediately with running water.

Preventive measures include advocating for stricter regulations on the sale and purchase of corrosive substances and raising awareness about the severe consequences of these attacks

Remember, the best defence against acid attacks is prevention and education. By understanding the issue and spreading awareness, we can contribute to reducing the occurrence of these horrific crimes. Stay safe!

Tackling acid attacks and supporting survivors

Grassroots women’s rights organisations are the key to tackling violence against women and girls. With the right backing they can make sure survivors of acid attacks get the support and justice that they deserve and importantly change laws and social practices which allow attacks to take place and for perpetrators to remain at large.

In the event of an acid attack, there are services that can help:

Emergency number – 999

For immediate first aid and to report an acid attack dial 999.


For advice on acid and chemical burns, refer to the NHS.

Changing Faces

Support for people whose condition or injury affects their appearance.

Katie Piper Foundation

Help and advice for survivors of acid attacks and other burns and their families.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it.