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Colombian acid attack victims struggle to carry on

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 7th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

At one time known for their beauty, Colombian acid attacks victims now live under reduced circumstances. Disfigured, disabled, these once proud women are now often reduced to begging in the streets for their livelihood. Even worse is the fact that these types of attacks are on the rise in this South American country. At least 250 women have been assaulted in such a manner here for the past three years.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to recent figures, this year's acid-throwing victim reports already outpace last year's.

In countries such as Pakistan or Bangladesh, these attacks are far more prevalent. As many as 150 Pakistani women are attacked every day, according to the BBC.

In Colombia, whose population is nearly four times smaller than Pakistan's, the attacks are believed more prominent. Experts think there are far more victims out there than reported.

One such victim, 28-year-old Viviana Hernandez was attacked five years ago, leaving burn marks down her face, chest and hands. The acid attack took away the eyesight in her left eye.

"We know of many cases that were never reported because of threats, because of fear," 28-year-old acid victim Viviana Hernandez told the BBC. Hernandez thinks it was her former husband who carried out the attack after she refused to get back together with him.

Her former husband didn't throw the acid himself, she said, but hired the attackers. "The aim is to harm, not to kill. And to harm somebody for the rest of her life, she said.

Former beauty pageant contestant Maria Fernanda Nuņez, who was 22-years-old at the time of her attack, says she was punished for her good looks. The former Miss Colombia contestant was brutally attacked near her home following a pageant's rehearsal with her parents in 2010.

Authorities could not perform an arrest due to a law that required Miss Nuņez to spend a minimum of 30 days in recovery.

Nuņez received burns to her face, eye, and parts of her chest and lower body, but had only 20 days in recovery with a doctor. Public outrage over the episode help lead to an increase in the maximum prison sentence available to attackers, which previously was only six months to two years in prison.

The law has since been emended to a maximum of 20 years with the attackers also required to provide the victims with protection and comprehensive care.

Consuelo Cordoba, who was attacked by her boyfriend 11 years ago - requiring her to wear a mask to prevent infection and a tube to breathe out of her nose - that care would be far from all she has now.

The 51-year-old Cordoba now walks a market in Bogota begging for change after being unable to find work due to her appearance.

"I've thought about committing suicide, yes sir, I've thought about taking my life three times. I say to myself, why live? With a life like the one I have, what for?" she told NPR.

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