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

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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!

You must be to comment.
  1. conan doyle

    I don’t understand what can motivate someone to commit such crimes.

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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        Read more about her campaign.

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        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

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        Read more about the campaign here.

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        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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