A Blind Eye, A Scarred Face And A Traumatized Heart: What Should Be Done About Acid Attacks?

Posted on August 28, 2012 in Specials

By Reeti Mahobe:

She is beautiful. She is confident. She loves life and struggles to make a space for herself. All of a sudden, it’s all blurred, dark, and grim. This is what an Acid attack victim or a survivor feels like. It takes not just days, but months and in several cases years for her to recover in physical terms while mentally it takes even longer for her to regain confidence and desire to live through. For whatever reasons, be it rejection of love, jealousy, dowry, any other dispute or just the ‘male ego’ (it definitely doesn’t show they are ‘masculine’ but it’s an act of cowardice! This they should remember!) it’s the most excruciatingly brutal punishment for her. We may just talk and discuss here of what pain she undergoes, but definitely its graveness, only she knows.

Its not just the need of the hour, but minute, as in just a matter of a few seconds or minutes it leaves the victim ‘disabled’, that stern actions be taken both to prevent such attacks and also to punish the arbitrators which can be exemplary to the society and give ‘some’ (as  it can never be complete!) justice to the victim. In most cases that happen, the apathetic attitude of police is seen while many go unreported. A proper accountability mechanism needs to be devised to keep a check on it. There must be efficiently and sufficiently motivated staff for ‘Women Cells’ in every district.

In a country, where on one hand we have licensing for possessing any ‘arms’ and we cannot grab any ‘weapon’ openly, on the other side equally harmful and hazardous acids are cheaply and widely available. We do need a proper law to stop this as soon as possible. Moreover, the Criminal Law works for these victims under the Sections 320,322,325 and 326 of IPC that provides the definition of ‘grievous hurt’. But to our dismay, this definition doesn’t spell about the deliberate hurt on important parts of female body nor does it specifically entails to hurt caused by Acid Attacks. This was even reported by Law commission of India. Do our parliamentarians care enough? Alas! To talk of recent happenings; there’s ‘NO’ work going on there.

To go on further with Law Commission’s recommendations, that need to be taken note of, it said the ‘maximum’ punishment that can be given to the offender for committing the crime is imprisonment for life or it may extend to 10 years with a description under section 326. But the gravity of crime doesn’t ‘conform’ to the punishment that may be inflicted upon. It does need to be made ‘non bailable’. These cases that don’t cause death are mentioned as not with any intention to ‘kill’. But is it so really? Isn’t it ‘death-like’ when someone who has had a normal life, is within just few seconds left blind, scarred, and traumatized?

In our neighbouring country, Bangladesh, a legislation was passed in 2002 that provided for death sentence to the acid attack perpetrator and made laws strictly controlling sale, use, storage and international trade of acid. For another instance that may guide us for progressive law reforms, it may be mentioned here, the case of a shoot out at London where the deceased was an Indian, where accused who shot him dead just for the sake of ‘fun’ was imprisoned for 30 years stating that such persons are dangerous for the society. India’s judicial process is infamous for its ‘long drawn’ justice delivery. The things need to be acted upon now and fast track courts need to be stalled everywhere. As evident from numerous cases, acid burns recovery and treatment involves a lot of money spanning several lakhs of rupees, it must be sourced out from the ‘offender’ or at least be taken care of by government and the NGOs. Proper and compulsory counselling sessions and rehabilitation programmes must be conducted to help the victim and her family to live through the trauma. As in most cases, women are attacked on their face, it becomes difficult for them to get involved in social gatherings; they must be provided with jobs and skill development.

All the more, society does need to move from the ‘backward thinking’ and patriarchal attitude and accept that girls can excel and are excelling in their fields and they have the equal rights to live with freedom!