Author: Shagun Rastogi, Student at Bennett University, Greater Noida
“Kitna acha hota agar acid bikta hi nahi, bikta nahi toh fikta bhi nahi”, these are the words of an acid survivor.
An acid attack is a form of a violent assault that involves the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another with the intention to disfigure, torture or kill that person. Acid attacks are some of the most brutal and horrible assaults that a person can endure, but sadly, in India, it has become very common from small towns to big cities. The rise in these attacks have steadily been increasing in the recent years. As per the Police records, they show lesser number of attacks as they were never reported because of the social stigma or the involvement of their own family members, the real figure to these attacks is way too high. This is not a biased topic both man or woman have suffered from this.
HISTORY OF ACID ATTACKS
Acid throwing actually go back hundreds of years, dating back to at least, the 1830s and have been plaguing the U.S. and the part of Western Europe ever since then. These attacks at that time were known as Vitriolage, because of the use of Vitriol.
Some of the first reported case of acid attacks were in Glasgow and the perpetrators were harshly punished. Reformers Gazette, a newspaper in Glasgow, stated that “The crime of throwing vitriol has, we grieve to say, become so common in this part of the country, as to become almost a stain on the national character.
In an article of 1834, a man named Huge Kennedy, was given a death sentence for throwing vitriol on a sleeping man.
CRIME OF ACID ATTACK
Lot of times because of the medical facilities the victim dies right after the attack and other times the attacks are obscure because the woman doesn’t feel like implicating her husband or any other family member that was involved. “Usne mera chehra badla h, dil nhi”. This is a line by an attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal who was attacked in Delhi because that man wanted to marry her and she didn’t replied.
“Hath me acid baad mein aata h, pehle dimaag mein aata h”. Attacking stems from a mentality that says, “If I can’t have her, no one else can”. Around 2016-17 acid attacks were predominantly women-centric crime, that is they were a form of gender based violence. But over the years we have seen an alarming trend growing that people are starting to use acid as a weapon and that’s I assume, because of its easy availability, it is cheap and a cowardly act to commit. It was assumed that these attacks are higher in rural areas but it is not so, the access is very easy. Envy and jealously is the most common motive for these attacks.
Gulnaaz, an acid attack survivor, attacked in 2006. This atrocious attack was committed by the Imam of the Mosque and the two boys from her neighbourhood because she opened a beauty parlour.
Currently these attacks are most commonly associated with the countries like India and Pakistan, which are developing. But it’s recent that the tides have shifted, and attacks are becoming more and more common. In South and South-East Asia acid attacks are happening from years starting in about 1967. The majority of the survivor in India are women and the attacks are very commonly linked with gender discrimination.
‘In India, a woman is judged on the basis of her appearance, her beauty and destroying her appearance will destroy her standing in the society’. And unfortunately, this is what happens as people do not understand disfigurement. And also we are plagued by the notion of blaming the victim. Attackers mission while attacking is only to ruin life of the another person be it a boy or a girl. But the society at large ensures that the deed done by attacking the acid on the body, has made the survivor loose his/her standing in the society.
In Bhagalpur, a small town in Bihar, India, police used to attack with needles and bicycle spokes in the eyes but later they of poured acid in the eyes of 30 prisoners in 1980. These attacks still went on for several months, not resulting in any kind of changes. Only 2 police officers were put behind bars that too after 20 years.
Bangladesh is an outlier in terms of being reasonably successful in slowing down of the acid attacks, because of its harsh laws and the harsh penalty to the perpetrators. The decline is from 30% to 20%.
These are more powerful than any other violent attacks because they are visible and the trauma of an acid attack survivor is unparalleled as this leaves a physical and a mental scars in the victims. It is the worst crimes one can commit. Survivors not only have to deal with the disfigurement but also a lot of disabilities. More than 75% of the victims become either visually impaired or become completely blind, their breathing through nose becomes impossible because the acid corroded their nose bones, leading to melting away of their breathing passage. This becomes a never ending process in their lives. They have to go through many reconstructive surgeries, in order to get better, so that they have to live with the least amount of disabilities.
Unlike rape and kidnapping there are no clear cut laws for Acid attacks, in a sense that acid attacks are punished by death penalty. In Preeti Rathi case, the Session Court gave the death sentence to the accused but no one can make out as the case can be taken to the High Court and the Supreme Court so no one can actually make out whether or not the decision will be upheld.
Section 326(A) deals with voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid – “Whoever cause permanent or partial damages or deformity to, or burns or maims or disfigures or disables, any parts of the body of a person or causes grievous hurt by throwing acid on or administering acid to that person, or by using any other means with the intention of causing or with the knowledge that he is likely to cause such injury or hurt, shall be punished with the imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and with fine:
Provided that such fine shall be just and reasonable to meet the medical expenses of the treatment of the victim:
Provided further that any fine imposed under this section shall be paid to the victim.
Section 326(B) deals with voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid.
Laws should be changed, for ruining someone’s life is punishment should be death penalty. But around the years these laws have been changed. Earlier, the maximum punishment was 1- years and now is life imprisonment. This a very heinous crime which destroys someone’s life their body parts are destroyed by this act.
People who are unable to get their treatment done and left with the deformities are often treated as social outcast, and even have difficulties in finding jobs. Women across the world are having their life ripped away because of these violent attacks. So awareness of these attacks are needed more now. And also the strictness in the laws is needed.