The first I heard about any kind of acid attack was back in October 2009 when I watched Channel 4’s documentary Katie: My Beautiful Face. We learnt how the gorgeous model and wannabe TV presenter had had acid thrown on her face by a bitter ex boyfriend. We are shown the pain that this young girl has had to go through on a physical level through numerous hospital visits and her new daily skin care routine. The program had the desired effect on me and I felt awful after watching it. Firstly, awful for Katie, but also that this could happen in our country. Since then, I have seen further documentaries on the subject; Channel 4’s Saving Face portrayed the frequency of these attacks in Pakistan. For some reason, my heart didn’t go out to these women in the same way. And then last month I read about Naomi Oni, a girl who had acid thrown in her face on her way home from work in Dagenham by someone wearing a niqab; a person, assumedly a stranger, that is yet to be caught. I then saw Naomi on This Morning where she shared her story, along with feeling both heartbroken and uncomfortable, I felt scared, exposed. That this happened by an entire stranger so close to her home is terrifying.
Acid throwing is happening more and more across South Asia, where it is at its peak in Pakistan where around 150 women fall victim to an acid based attack. There are a few main situations that provoke these attacks. Firstly, is by a husband who believes his wife to be either having an affair or failing at her marital duties. Secondly is where a woman doesn’t like the advances a man is making towards her; if she refuses a proposal of some sort, and lastly, if a man feels as though a woman is tarnished in some way, unworthy to be part of the society. Whilst watching the documentary, I felt less sorry for the girls in Pakistan in regards to their attacks because I was very focused on why they were attacked in the first place. I realise that acid attacks both abroad and in our own country are not exhaustive towards women over a sexist issue, but that is seemingly the vast majority of the case. Relationships are complex, we all know that. If you do cheat on your husband you deserve a slap and a drink poured in your face, definitely, and if you are a bit of a floozy who is ‘tarnished’ from sleeping around a lot, you probably deserve to get called a slapper a fair few times; but acid thrown in your face? No. No way. Living in a country where your fate is dictated to you by a man with no room for freedom is the real tragedy here.
What happened to Katie and Naomi terrifies me. Those normal girls, who probably wear the same perfume as me and watch Coronation St. have had to go through such a scary ordeal. Living with burns/blindness or any illness is terrible for anyone, but it is so sad that this was inflicted upon these girls by either a complete stranger or a bitter ex boyfriend – it is a tragedy that someone who was apparently not 100% mentally stable was out there waiting to commit such an act. These girls now deserve a really great life. Katie is doing some amazing work for charity and affiliating with brands, mingling with celebrities, and seems happy. I hope she is. And I hope Naomi comes out of this with some amazing opportunities, and is recognised for her braveness and, above all, whoever did this to her is caught (I’d love to add here that he gets acid thrown into his face, too, but it’s not very Christian of me). Because this is what is so great about Britain; we will all stick together and support each other. If any person were to get their hands on the beasts that inflicted this pain, they would want them to suffer the same horrific pain. I am eternally thankful that the laws in this country mean that this has happened to so few people and, as women, we are so safe.