Colombian Sen. Carlos Baena said the punishment for the crime often involves no jail time because the attacks are treated as minor assaults, The Washington Post reported Thursday. He is sponsoring a bill to impose at least a 20-year prison term for convicted attackers.
"The punishment is very light and doesn't take into account the very dramatic pain that the victim has to go through," he said.
Monico Roa, director of the Women's Link Worldwide rights group in Bogota, said the precise reason for a spike in these attacks -- in which acid is thrown on the face of a woman, permanently disfiguring her -- is unknown.
Acid attacks in India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh have received attention in recent years with the success of an Oscar-winning documentary about victims, the Post reported.
"Sometimes in the West we make fast judgments and say, 'Look how terrible they treat women in the East,' and we don't look first at ourselves," Roa said. "The violence here may be different, but it emanates from the same place. This is a culture where machismo reigns, where men do what they want to do."