The importance of women’s physical beauty as a means to social acceptance cannot be overstated. Reports of acid attacks as a means of retaliation by rejected suitors demonstrate the importance of physical beauty in women’s social acceptance.
In Bangladesh between 1996 and 1998 there was a fourfold increase in reported acid attacks from forty-seven to more than two hundred (Bellamy, 2000). Acid attacks have been reported in Egypt, England, India, Italy, Jamaica, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Vietnam (Welch, 1999).
Dano, a teenage boy, had a crush on Bina’s cousin, who did not return his affection. One night, while Bina and her cousin were asleep in a shared bed, Dano and a few friends entered their room with battery acid to punish Bina’s cousin for rejecting him. Bina, to protect her cousin, jumped in front of Dano. At first, Bina thought the burning liquid thrown in her face was boiling water (Welch, 1999).
In Kashmir, acid was thrown into a bus and three women were burned. Such attacks are a part of a campaign to enforce an Islamic dress code among women (Hussain, 2001). In India, some women have been attacked by acid after refusing the advances or rejecting arranged marriage proposals or because the dowry a woman brings to a marriage is not large enough. When desire and sex are the motivating factor, acid is thrown at the genitals and the breasts as well as the women’s face.
In Cambodia, women have been burned by battery acid by the wives of men with whom they had illicit sexual encounters as a means of punishment, retaliation, revenge, or making the woman sexually unattractive (Mydans, 2001). The targets of attempts at disfiguration are usually young, beautiful women (Welch, 1999).
Nargis, fourteen, refused to become her neighbor’s second wife. The rejected man sprayed her genitals with acid while she was in the bathroom that she and her brother shared with the neighbor’s family (Welch, 1999).
This practice of disfiguring women who have rejected men is not limited to Asia. In 1986 two men slashed American model, Marla Hanson, in the face. Her landlord, Steven Roth, a television make-up artist whose overtures Hanson had rejected, orchestrated the attack after Hanson broke her lease early and demanded the return of her rent deposit (Welch, 1999).