By: Our Correspondent

Bangladesh has passed the test. When it comes to implementing strong
measures to tackle acid attacks, the country has done better than its
neighors India and Cambodia.

In a recently-released study on
crime in Bangladesh, Cambodia and India, researchers found that
Bangladesh had taken the most proactive approach to decreasing the
attacks by enacting a no-bail policy for perpetrators, forming a
national council to regulate corrosive solutions and ensuring treatment
and rehabilitation for victims.

Whether the attacks follow
perceived wrongdoings or are simply the response of spurned suitors,
thousands of women in the South Asian region around Bangladesh have had
sulphuric acid sprayed or poured onto their faces, eliminating facial
features, causing blindness and fusing skin together, forcing them into a
life of health problems and social isolation.

"This is a form of
gender terrorism, I believe," says Sital Kalantry, Cornell
International Human Rights Clinic Director. The study is based on two
years of on-the-ground research and fact-finding conducted by four New
York-based groups: Kalantry's Human Rights Clinic; Cornell Law School's
Avon Global Center for Women and Justice; the New York City Bar
Association; and the Virtue Foundation, which acts in a consultative
capacity to the United Nations on global health care, education and
empowerment initiatives. It was funded by a grant from the Avon Global
Center for Women and Justice.

Despite the good news,
Bangladesh's women have yet to feel the full benefit of the new laws and
policies. The density of population in the country combined with a
relative scarcity of police officers hinders investigations and
prosecutions.

In Bangladesh, in the years between 2000 and 2009,
there were 2,198 reported attacks but only 439 convictions, according to
the study. However, the attacks in Bangladesh have waned, falling
steadily from 367 in 2002 to 116 in 2009.

Producers of the
report, entitled 'Combating Acid Violence in Bangladesh, India and
Cambodia', call it the first comprehensive study of the use of acids to
maim, disfigure and punish women.

A search of Indian newspapers
by the researchers found 153 reported cases in India between January
2002 and October 2010 and the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity has
counted 271 acid violence victims treated in hospitals in Cambodia
between 1985 and 2010.

But these figures from the report may not
tell the whole story, as records of such assaults in these nations are
not always kept and the crimes themselves are sometimes not reported,
feels Kalantry.

In the next year the producers of the report plan
to offer technical assistance based on the current data and advice on
what to do moving forward to governmental representatives of Cambodia,
Bangladesh and India, should they ask for it, to help confront and
change the culture of acid attacks, she adds.

Also in the
pipeline is a forum to be held in New Delhi in October where various
women's health and rights non-governmental organizations and possibly
government representatives from the three nations studied – where acid
attacks are relatively prevalent – can compare strategies and successes.

Victims
often become social pariahs as some communities see them as bad omens.
"Unlike rape, which can be hidden, this is on a woman's face," Kalantry
says.

Corporations that produce or use acids in their products
will also be recruited to help end the violence. According to Sara Lulo,
Avon Executive Director, acids are readily available in Bangladesh,
India and Cambodia and are used as cleaning products, in dyes for
clothing and in batteries. Better labeling of receptacles in which acids
are sold could make a difference, Lulo feels, which gives producers of
the chemicals a way to join the fight against acid attacks.

Karsten Strauss is a freelance journalist based in New York City. By arrangement with Women's eNews/Women’s Feature Service