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Violence Against Women, Gender
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South Asia
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Bangladesh, Domestic Violence
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"Lingering Scars" tells the story of women who are the victims of acid and kerosene burns in Bangladesh as they try to rebuild their lives in a society where violence against women is on the rise and is sanctioned by both society and the state. 
Farzana Hossen

2014 — student award of excellence

“Whom do I believe? I have to come again and again to the hospital. The man I lived with for eight years gave me unforgettable pain every single day. He used to beat me whenever he wanted, even for a small mistake. Eleven years have passed since he threw acid on me and burned my body and my face, and I am still carrying the sores,” says Roushon, 32. 

There are scores of new acid attack and burn victims arriving every day at the hospital. In addition to disfigurement of the face and body, some have permanent loss of eyesight; some will never be able to eat with their mouth. In most cases the victims are women, whose burn injuries are caused by their intimate partner, spouse, boyfriend or the person whom they refused to love.

Violence against women is a global phenomenon. In Bangladesh, reports of violence against women are on the rise. Oftentimes, it takes the form of acid attacks, which are estimated to occur every two days, the majority of sufferers being female. Violence against women is closely linked to the institute of marriage, whereby the woman is considered to be guilty for any family breakup or divorce and living alone is difficult. These views on marriage are deeply embedded in cultural and socio-economic practices. Violence against women is sanctioned by both society and the state, but in the name of culture, tradition and religious practices, women are usually forced to live with their abusive spouse to maintain social norms, as I did. 

He said he loved me and I believed him, but straight after our wedding, my nightmare began. I suffered unimaginable pain and humiliation, yet I maintained a relationship with the person who tortured me both physically and mentally every day for two and a half years. I had to leave my college and friends and I felt like the living dead. I concealed this from my own family and tried to save my marriage. Nothing worked.

Eventually, I’d had enough and finally decided to file for divorce. I am one of the lucky ones. My family provided the support and help needed to escape an abusive relationship. Today I can think independently. Still, I can feel the pain of the thousands of women who are victims of violence. I can hear the cries of those in hospital beds after losing a limb, nursing stitches or being burned by acid. I can see the tears of those remaining silent. I can taste the blood dripping from their battered noses. The problem lies in our social fabric and economic order. Women need men and vice versa, but as long as women are considered to be inferior to men, there will always be gender inequality.

According to Acid Survival Foundation(ASF) in Bangladesh, from 1999 to 2011 there were 2539 acid attacks and among them 1084 were women. The ratio between male and female victims indicates the extent of violence and discrimination against women in our society.

I intend to work with women and girls who have survived an acid attack, and are trying to rebuild their lives despite carrying horrific mental and physical wounds. This is a profoundly personal undertaking and an important part of reflecting upon my past. I plan to travel to ten different districts of Bangladesh where groups of survivors have built support structures. I want to document their lives, their struggles, their sufferings and their resilience. The stories of these women will shed light on a very dark corner of human existence. They will give voice to individuals who’ve been silenced by their oppressors. They will tell the world that we need to campaign for women’s rights.

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Munira, 21, in the backyard of a neighbour’s house in Dhaka. Munira was attacked with acid at the age of eleven when she refused to accept a love proposal of a man who was 22 years old. In 2003, Munira was sleeping with her mother inside their home in the rural village of Netrokona. At 2am one night, her attacker broke down the door of the house and threw acid on her. He has never been punished as he was able to bribe authorities to escape penalty. Farzana Hossen
Moni,15, on her mother’s lap in Acid Survivor Foundation in Dhaka. Farzana Hossen
Sheema, 17, lies in the operation theater to have her wounds dressed at the Acid Survivor Foundation (ASF) in Dhaka. She has had four skin surgeries. In 2013 she worked in a dyeing factory in Norshingdi. One day while walking home, she had acid thrown on her face by a co-worker (27) whose love proposal she had refused. Farzana Hossen
Salma, 42, is a mother of three daughters. Her husband Mohammed Delwar Hossen, 50, threw acid on her in 1997, after nine years of marriage. Salma’s eldest daughter says, “My mother was beautiful and was the main person who earned money for our family. My father used to take all the money for gambling and as she was beautiful he thought she could divorce him and could marry someone else. That was the reason he threw acid on my mom.” Farzana Hossen
Sheema,17, needs to exercise regularly to keep her swollen skin flexible, at Acid Survivor Foundation hospital. In 2013 she worked in a dyeing factory in Norshingdi. One day while walking home, she had acid thrown on her face by a co-worker (27) whose love proposal she had refused. Farzana Hossen  
Moni, 15, at her home in Rangpur. In 2012, Moni was in grade nine at school. She was attacked with acid after refusing to love and marry a man who was 21 years old. She has lost her eyesight completely in one eye, and cannot afford the cost of an operation that could repair sight in the other. Farzana Hossen
In 2010, Maksuda, 27, was dowsed with kerosene by her husband after a fight. Maksuda still lives with Aladin Miah, 40, who continues to beat her. She gave birth to a baby boy in 2013. Farzana Hossen
Sheema, 17, sleeping in her bed at Acid Survivor Foundation hospital. She has trouble sleeping due to pain caused by the scars on her face. In 2013 she worked in a dyeing factory in Norshingdi. One day while walking home, she had acid thrown on her face by a co-worker (27) whose love proposal she had refused. Farzana Hossen
Roushon, 32, got married at the age of 13 in Birampur. In 2002, after eight years of marriage, her husband poured acid on her while she was sleeping next to her son because she opposed his second marriage. She lost an ear completely and half of her face and body has been burned. She now lives with her son in her mother’s home and now studying along with her son. Farzana Hossen
A photograph of Marifa, 22. Marifa was a student of Pharmacy in the University of Chittagong. In June 2011, she attempted suicide by drinking acid after a male classmate spread rumours about her when she refused to accept his love proposal. She died in February 2012 from injuries caused by her suicide attempt. Farzana Hossen