By Nakul Arora:
A recent poll by TrustLaw for Thomson Reuters Foundation shows the world’s largest democracy to be the fourth most unsafe place for women. The major reasons quoted were female foeticide, child marriage and high levels of human trafficking.
The subjugation of women in Indian society is not something new, it has been present right from the very start, with India’s oldest texts “The Laws of Manu” referring to the position of a women in home as dependent on her father at young age, her husband at middle age and her son at later age. They clearly state that a woman should at no point of time be independent and entail that she should treat her husband as god. This has undoubtedly travelled down the ages with the condition deteriorating further. The general attitude amongst most men in India is of a sense of ownership over their wives/girlfriends or other women in the family. They feel that they have to protect and take care of the women, who must in all cases remain dependent on them. The woman is not supposed to have her own wishes and must oblige with everything her father, husband and son says. The problem starts when the woman dares to express her own wishes. Then, she is punished by the family (in most cases) for going against their wishes and the crimes inflicted upon her are given the name of honour killings i.e. killings done to preserve the honour of the family.
One such really horrible method of inflicting revenge on the woman is throwing of acid on the victim’s face. This method is mainly prevalent in south-Asia, mostly because of the easy availability of acid in these countries. The perpetrators of this crime are mostly family members, jealous ex-lovers or suitors who have been turned down in the past. They cash on the fact that the women in sub-continent are valued mostly on their appearance, so once the appearance is destroyed, the woman’s value is lost. Not only this, the mentality of the people committing the crime is that leaving a girl disfigured is far worse than killing her, for the former would be more painful for the victim than instant death. There are so many numerous cases wherein a victim’s face was destroyed for life for as little as turning down a boy’s love offer. The victims in an acid attack are left disfigured for life (if they are able to survive it) with their faces being heavily (up to 90%) burnt in most cases. There have been cases, where the victims have been blinded, lips have got fused together, the skin of the face has melted revealing veins and bones and a case which shocked me the most was one in which even the victim’s breasts had melted away.
An insight into the perpetrator’s (who has been caught and brought to justice) mind reveals an attitude of ownership over the woman. These men can’t take rejection of any kind and a single statement can sum up their minds: Agar meri nahi to kisi ki bhi nai (If she’s not mine, then she will be of nobody else’s). Also, the fact that the justice systems in the south-Asian countries are slow gives these victims further leeway for there is no fear of law and order on them. In-fact, in some states like Haryana, where honour killings are openly announced by groups and are considered as status quo for the people living there, cases of acid attacks are much higher for their it can be justified under the pretext of preserving a family’s honour. Whatever might be the case, acid attacks are never justifiable for nobody deserves such a life of trauma, esp. the victim who are majorly women who in most cases have just done the “crime” of speaking out.
All is not bad for the victims of the acid attacks, as strong laws are in place in most south-Asian countries to punish the perpetrator. Also, there have been demands of treating the cases of acid-attacks equivalent to rapes and inflicting the same heavy punishment to the doers. Â Talks are doing the rounds for controlling and limiting the supply and sale of acids because of the various hazards involved. On our part, we can start from our homes and ensure that women are treated as equals and simultaneously hope that stronger laws and efficient judiciary would help in curbing this menace by inflicting heavier punishment on the doers.
Nakul Arora is an intern with Youth Ki Awaaz and writes about education, society and the Indian polity. He is also a Teach for India fellow. To read his other posts, click here.[/box]