A fifty year prison sentence awaits those in Colombia found guilty of attacking and disfiguring another individual with acid.
The law, passed by Colombian Senate this Wednesday, is a victory for hundreds of women in the country who have been disfigured and brutally attacked with the chemical substance.
A milestone victory
It also is a milestone in the highly documented case of Natalia Ponce de León, a 30-year-old woman brutally attacked during 2014 by a man she had met some 20-years previous. Natalia was attacked in the door of her apartment block. Around a liter of sulphuric acid was poured over her face and body.
Bogotá also witnessed another highly-publicized acid attack earlier this year, as 28-year-old Yenny Marcela Pardo Roa was attacked outside her university while chatting on her cellphone. The popular business studies student had some 26 percent of her body covered in acid burns.
The motive behind such attacks still remains unknown. While some are committed by jealous ex-partners or friends, many of the attacks have been committed by complete strangers. Incredibly, the majority of perpetrators found guilty of acid attacks have walked free.
“Today the maximum sentence for aggravators doesn’t exceed 25 to 26 years, the law we have just passed will see the sentence increase to up to 50 years,” Roosevelt Rodríguez, initiative coordinator, explained.
Tough new sentencing
A 50 year sentence can be ruled if the attack is committed against a woman or a minor, with some 644 million (some $215 million) to 1,932 million peso fines also awaiting those found guilty – that’s around 250 of the country’s minimum salaries.
Around 526 women have been attacked with acid in Colombia since 2004. These figures now place the country ahead of Bangladesh and Pakistan in the total number of global attacks committed, Semana magazine reports.
So why do so many attackers walk free? Under current Colombian law, the attacks were written off as personal injury. In fact, an alleged 2,000 cases have been filed in the country’s law courts. To date, only two aggressors have been charged.
While the physical and mental scars still remain, tough new rulings and increased societal awareness mean those guilty of acid attacks will have to pay for their crime.