Beyond burns that scar and even debilitate for a lifetime, acid survivors face misunderstandings that lead to negative judgments and a lack of employment opportunities, representatives say.
Srey Oun, 33, who was blinded in an acid attack by her sister’s business competitor, said acid victims, especially women, were often not seen as victims, but as inviting attacks with loose behaviour.
“Almost all acid survivors are accused of being involved in a love triangle. This makes me want to hide myself from society,” she told attendees of the Ending Acid Violence and Discrimination of Acid Survivors forum held on Saturday by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights at Kampong Cham province’s Kampong Cham town.
“I do not want to go out because I don’t want to tell others that I am an acid survivor.”
CCHR project coordinator Sorn Ramana said yesterday that many people wrongfully stereotype acid survivors.
“They [society] lack education so they look down or discriminate against victims when they see their appearance,” she said.
The forum, at which four acid survivors spoke, aimed to raise the awareness of students and residents of Kampong Cham – a hotspot for acid incidents due to its many rubber plantations, which use acid in rubber processing – of acid violence and its impact on survivors, she said.
Survivors also called on the Cambodian government to provide livelihood opportunities, as employers often shied away from hiring survivors due to their appearances.
“Provide a centre for us to work or find us a market, because we produce goods in CASC, but we do not have the market to sell them,” said Srey Oun.
Despite NGOs like the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity giving survivors production opportunities, buyers often were not interested as they doubted the quality of the products, said Sorn Ramana.
The forum was also organised to reinforce the passing of the new acid law in December, meant to regulate access to acid and more strictly punish perpetrators of acid attacks, said Sorn Ramana.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at [email protected]