What is acid violence?

Acid violence or acid attacks refer to the throwing of acid on a person’s face or body with the intention of causing harm to that person.  The acid melts the flesh, sometimes to the bone, and causes lifelong scarring, physical disfigurement, and in some cases, permanent disability including blindness and immobility.  Many survivors spend a year or more in the hospital after their attack, undergoing extensive treatment and surgeries.  Learn more here

Why would someone do that?

Acid is a weapon of violence and is used in many different circumstances.  In Uganda*:

  • 84% are related to conflicts in romantic relationships
  • 10% are related to business conflicts
  • 3% are related to property conflicts
  • 3% are related to other reasons (i.e. reason for the attack unknown, politically motivated)
  • 70% of victims are women and 30% are men

Here are some of the survivors with whom we work.  We include their photos and information about their attack to put a ‘human face’ to the statistics.

Acid violence seems to be happening more often in Uganda than other countries in Africa.  Why?

  • Inexpensive: Acid is an inexpensive weapon of violence.  It costs around 3000 Ugandan Shillings, roughly 1 US dollar, to purchase a liter of acid.  With one liter, you can significantly damage a person’s body or end their life.  Many people in Uganda live in poverty and acid is a cheap and accessible weapon when they cannot access or afford other weapons.
  • Weak Laws: Acid is easy to get (there are few regulations on who can purchase acid) and there are weak punishments for perpetrators.
  • Large Supply: Uganda is one of the only countries in Africa that manufactures their own automobiles.  Given that one of the main industrial uses for acid is in car batteries, acid is likely available to a much greater extent in Uganda than other countries in Africa.
  • Patriarchal Society: One of the reasons that I believe acid attacks are not being taken more seriously by the Ugandan government is that the majority of victims are women.  In general, Ugandan men do not want us to exercise our rights as women.  If you see someone in power who is affected by this, you will see the government coming out and doing something about it.  But, acid attacks rarely target these people.  The biggest population affected are women, and these are usually women who are not well educated and lack resources for speaking out.”- Linneti Kirungi

Are there currently any laws in Uganda against acid attacks?

In 2016, the Ugandan government passed the Toxic Chemicals and Prohibition Bill. The Bill is a good start, but it includes all toxic chemicals rather than specifically focusing on acid. A law specific to acid that focuses on the misuse of acid and highlights the penalties for perpetrators is needed.


What kind of laws do we suggest the Government of Uganda pass?

  • Enactment of stricter laws that criminalize illegal acid dealings and misuse. The laws should provide for the:
    • Denial of bail to those found guilty
    • Stricter charges
    • Compensation to the acid attack survivors
  • Formulation and implementation of a national acid policy addressing:
    • Acid accessibility and availability
    • Licensing, distribution, and storage
    • General trading
  • Support the investigating agencies, such as the police, with financial resources and technical knowledge to enable them to do a thorough investigative job