Acid violence against women, a gender-based viciousness, is common in Bangladesh, regardless of an urban or rural setup.
Human life is subjected to atrocious effects of acid only because of marital or pre-marital disagreements such as dowries and refusal of love proposals, and land disputes. Survivors of this hostility are severely disfigured as the acid melts the skin and sometimes dissolves bones. Apart from these physical injuries, they face psychological challenges like anxiety and depression.
Majority of the victims are women, that too under the age of eighteen. Men have considered this as a means to dominate women. In their view, physical beauty plays a vital role in a woman’s life. In other terms, a disfigured woman’s life is worthless; no one would be willing to marry her. It is also argued that physical appearance has a significant role in portraying femininity within a woman. However, giving importance to a woman’s physical beauty can also be considered as a means to dominate them. We need to be aware of the fact that a woman is much more than her physical appearance. What if a woman pours acid over a man? Acid has similar effects over men. However, she is not expected to commit such an act because of gender stereotypes and preconceptions.
Easy access to acid, a cheap commodity, is another main reason behind this common violence.
Looking through the government interventions in this issue, we come across various acts passed in different points of time. For instance, Prevention of Women and Child Repression Act 2000 and Acid Control Act 2002. The former act deals with cases of violence against women such as trafficking and acid attacks, meanwhile according to the latter act, unlicensed handling of acid can result in a 3-10 years imprisonment. In addition to these, in 2002, Bangladesh introduced death penalty for the ones who commit the crime of throwing acid. Therefore, the current scenario has a better appearance. Unfortunately, many limitations such as poverty, lack of awareness about existing laws among the public and corruption in judicial system stand as obstacles. Weak enforcement of laws worsens the situation.
In addition to these, many NGO’s and legal aid organizations support the survived victims of acid violence. They help the survivors in getting access to aid in a community which has poor medical facilities. Besides, they provide mental support to these victims to fit into the society from which they try to isolate themselves. The unkind attack changes their lifestyle dramatically. They end up in an isolated world by giving up education and work. It also has a negative impact on their self-esteem and confidence.
To put an end to this common violence, society’s view of women must change. In addition to this, the country must have an unbiased judicial system with strong enforcement of laws. Public needs to be aware of the existing laws and rules which are implemented with the primary aim of making their lives secure. Media has a leading part in doing this.
It is time to wipe off this malicious act from the society as it not only victimizes innocent lives but also widens the gender gap.
The writer is a Bangladesh correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz.
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