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Acid attacks on women in Colombia on the rise Maria Fernanda Nuñez, a Colombian beauty pageant contestant, was returning home from a rehearsal in 2010 when an unknown attacker doused her face with acid, searing her skin, nose and lips and severely damaging a cornea. Her case got singular media attention in Colombia but her case is hardly unique. Nuñez was one of at least 250 women attacked with acid in Colombia in the past three years, a significant increase in such attacks. The increase has alarmed Colombian women and prompted calls for tougher punishment for perpetrators.

"They [the attacker] intend to permanently disfigure the victim, to cause damage, brutal physical and psychological damage, and severe scarring and ostracism," said Meryem Aslan, head of the UN Trust Fund. According to experts, most victims are targeted by a jilted lover, angry boyfriend or husband. Using nitric or sulfuric acid to disfigure a woman's face is a gruesome, and well-documented, tactic in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. But such assaults had been rare in the West. Though the reason for the spike in Colombia is uknown, Olga Rubio, a Bogota councilwoman said the assaults are indicative of the discrimination and violence women face in Colombia. WEBLAOPINION via YouTube Nuñez, a beauty pageant contestant and Miss Colombia hopeful, was attacked by an unknown assailant. "We have a machista society; we have a society that doesn't permit equality, where there is not a mental openness to work [with women] under equal conditions," she told NPR. A few weeks after Nuñez was attacked, authorities in her hometown of Cucuta said they had identified a suspect who would not be detained. “An attack suspect can only be arrested if the victim spends over thirty days in recovery," police commander Jorge Ivan Florez told Colombia Reports. Nuñez was hospitalized for 20 days. Those found guilty of an acid attack are generally sentenced to between six months and two years in prison, according to Colombian news site InfoSur. Colombian Congresswoman Gloria Stella Díaz has introduced a bill that would increase sentencing from eight to 20 years. LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images Colombian Maria Cuervo poses with an old picture of herself at her home in Bogota on March. Cuervo, 41, was burnt with acid on March 8, 2004. In Colombia such attacks are categorized as personal, equivalent to hitting someone, and the maximum penalty for them is four years of prison. Even if their assailant is punished, victims must also face the stigma and medical costs that follow an assault. Consuelo Cordoba, 51, suffered an acid attack by a boyfriend 11 years ago. The acid melted off most of her face, including her nose, and blinded her in one eye. "I've thought about committing suicide… I've thought about taking my life three times," she told NPR. "I say to myself, why live? With a life like the one I have, what for?"

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Acid attacks on women in colombia on the rise  
Acid attacks on women in colombia on the rise