India Needs To Do More For Its Acid Attacks Survivors, Monetary Compensation Isn’t Enough

You didn’t have love in your heart, you had acid in it.”

Laxmi Agarwal (Acid Attack Survivor)

Having your face disfigured and burned in a matter of seconds, as a consequence of refusing to go out on a date with a man is not something any woman has in mind. It is one of the most degrading and painful things that a person could do to another! Then why would someone commit such a ghastly crime? There are so many questions!

Many people resort to acid attacks because of land disputes, family disputes, political rivalry, infidelity, broken marriage, and the rejection of a marriage or relationship proposal. The victim doesn’t necessarily have to be a female—there are reported cases of victimised men as well. But as statistics indicate, their numbers are nowhere close the female acid attack victims. Astoundingly, this is even happening to children, as a form of punishment.

The acid burns through the skin, exposes the bones, burns the eyes, nose and hair, which thereon results in permanent disfigurement of the victim’s body and emotional well-being. The state obviously cannot give the victims their bodies and lives back, it cannot take away the permanent scarring. However, the state does need to ensure that no other lives are ruined this way in the future, and it needs to provide compensation to the already suffering victims of this ghastly crime.

There should be an additional clause in the law where the State should take up the responsibility of compensating the victim if the accused fails to do so. Some states such as Karnataka have adopted a mechanism to pay the victim from State funds. Recently, the Delhi Government too announced that it would pay a compensation of up to three lakh to a victim in case there is disfigurement of the face, which is woefully insufficient when it comes to treatments with each surgery costing about 2-3 lakhs!

The “Acid Survivors Trust International” is the only organisation in the world working at an international level to end this form of violence. It also works with UN agencies to increase awareness and develop effective responses at world level. In India, their partner is called Acid Survivors Forum India. Needless to say, there is an urgent need for India to implement stricter laws, to effectively curb this vicious act of hatred against women.

The actual number of such cases may exceed our imagination because before the year 2013, acid attacks weren’t recorded separately. After an amendment was made to the law, we started recording the cases, but that data is hardly a few years old. Also, even with the provision, most of these cases go unreported due to various reasons such as the economic background of the victim’s family, threats to victims, insensitive treatment by police and medical staff towards the victims, etc. We, as individuals also need to open our eyes to this deadly threat and ask the government to regulate the distribution of commonly available acid as well as regulate laws specifically targeting the heinous act of acid attack.

Hats off to victims like Lalita Benbansi, Aarti Thakur, Reshma Qureshi and many nameless others who have gone through this traumatic experience and as a consequence, have been forced to live completely altered and painful lives. They are struggling both economically and socially. No one deserves this terrible fate. No one.