WHAT IS ACID ATTACK?
Acid is a corrosive or sour-tasting liquid with chemical qualities such as making litmus red, neutralizing alkalis, and dissolving certain metals. Attack is an act of aggression and violence directed at a person or a location. An acid attack, also known as acid throwing, vitriol attack or vitriol age, is a type of violent assault that involves throwing acid or another corrosive material upon another person’s body with the goal to disfigure, maim, torture or kill.
HOW EASILY THE WOMEN ARE TARGETED BY ACID ATTACK IN INDIA:
As it is often the case with crimes against women, acid attacks are treated with official apathy and societal indifference.The rising number of acid attack cases, from 83 in 2011 to 349 in 2015, shows India’s inability to grapple with this heinous crime. Cases continue unabated in various parts of the country, showing the pan- India character of this form of assault. Over the last few months cases of acid violence have been reported from Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Bihar, Assam and Delhi, underlining the fact that little has been done to regulate the availability of acid, despite the supreme court directive three years ago.
India has the highest number of acid attack in the world, but the worst conviction rates. As is often the case with other crimes against women, acid attacks are treated with official apathy and society indifference. The victims are usually women between the ages of 14 & 35 years, and the attack often occur as revenge for rejecting a marriage proposal or sexual advances, showing the peculiar mindset of male entitlement and power, and no right for a women to refuse. Women have had acid thrown at them for not bringing enough dowries, for bearing a female child and for not cooking a good enough meal.
THE LEGISLATION THAT PUNISHES ACID ATTACK IN INDIA:
By law, acid in India now can only be sold by licensed shops. The shopkeeper is required to maintain a record of the quantity sold and to whom. These details have to be then submitted to the transaction. All stocks have to be declared with the sub-division magistrate. Undeclared stocks can be confiscated and a maximum of Rs. 50, 000/- levied as fine. This, of course, is rarely done. Most of the establishments that use acid are in the unorganized sector. As acid is used right from toilet cleaning, to jewelry making and in battery shops, car and auto service garages, it continues to be easily available. Only a cup of acid is sufficient to disfigure a person and put her through unimaginable misery.
ACID ATTACK SURVIVORS AND THEIR STORIES:
Laxmi Agarwal was attacked in 2005 in New Delhi at the age of 15, when she was in 11th grade. She was approached by Naeem Khan, 32- year –old man who worked in her neighborhood. He made a proposal to Laxmi, but she declined.
She didn’t tell anyone since her family would have blamed her and put a stop to her education. Laxmi was walking out of Khan Market at 10:45 a.m. ten months later when she received the identical message from Naeem, telling her that he loves her and wants to marry her, but she remained silent. Later, Kamran, Naeem’s older brother, and his girlfriend, Rakhi, assaulted her with acid. While riding his motorcycle, Kamran called Laxmi’s name from behind. As a response to her, Laxmi turned around and peered behind her. Rakhi flung acid right at Laxmi’s face from the backseat as she looked behind in answer to her name. Laxmi passed out and tried to go up and call for help after regaining consciousness, but she was involved in many car accidents. Arun Singh phoned the cops, but when he saw her skin melting from the acid, he realized it was too late to ask for help. Someone else sprinkled water on her face in an attempt to cool her off, but the acid moved down and burned her neck. Then Arun managed to get her into the back seat of his car. This later caused burn holes in the seat covers. He referred her to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital for treatment. The police arrived at the hospital without delay. Arun then inquired about Laxmi’s family and residence. He arrived at her house, informed her family, and drove them to the hospital. She underwent a number of procedures, including eye surgery. Naeem Khan was detained four days after the attack, but he was freed nearly a month later. He married off right away. Later, he was condemned to life in jail after huge demonstrations and media attention.
In 2006, only 12 days after her wedding, 23-year-old Pragya Singh travelled alone in a train from her hometown, Varanasi, to Delhi, to pursue a career in apparel management.
At 2 AM, while she was sound asleep, a man whose marriage proposal she had turned down, threw acid on her face. The incident claimed the sight in one of her eyes and the young woman had to undergo almost fifteen surgeries.
Daulat Bi Khan
Mumbai resident was brutally acid-attacked at the age of 26 by her elder sister and brother-in-law.
Anmol was a two-month-old newborn being breastfed by her mother when her father attempted to murder them by dousing them with an entire can of acid. While her mother died as a result of her injuries, Anmol unexpectedly survived.
CAUSES OF ACID ATTACKS IN INDIA:
- Refusal of marriage proposal
- Refusal of sex or lust proposal
- Revenge/ anger
- Conflict regarding intimate relationship.
- Religious rights (Example – Ajodhya and Gujarat)
- Racial rights
- Personal land problems among family
- Mob lynching
- Political violence
WHAT STAND WE SHOULD TAKE AGAINST ACID ATTACK:
So can we fight this crime? We can learn from Bangladesh, which had an extremely high number of cases and has been able to combat the problem to a great extent. First, an acid attack case in the country has to be tried speedily. Investigation must be completed within 30 days. If the investigating officer needs more time, she or he has to inform the court and only two extensions of 15 days are given. If the officer fails to complete the investigation, or is found to be corrupt, she or he is liable for punishment. The case has to be decided within 90 days. Secondly Bangladesh has severe punishments for the crime- up to capital punishment. Third, unlicensed production, import, transportation, storage, sale and use of acid can attack a jail term from three to ten years. The stringent laws and their implementation have seen the number of attacks fall from 500 during 2002 to 71 in 2012.
The Supreme Court has directed all public and private hospitals to private hospital to provide first aid treatment free of cost to the survivor. Alok Dixit of the stop acid attacks campaign pointed out, it is difficult for a person in a village or a town to access a hospital with a burns ward. Such hospitals are only in big cities. The survivor, therefore, rarely gets immediate medical attention to reduce disfigurement, pain and suffering. While some hospitals are providing the initial treatment free, the woman may need to stay on for weeks or months, and hospitals are reluctant to keep her that long. Survivors are supposed to get about Rs 3 lakh as compensation from the state. But this amount is not enough as the cost of reconstructive surgeries often runs over Rs 30 lakh. A woman who has had acid thrown on her face may need 40 to 50 reconstructive surgeries if not more. States need to set up mechanisms and funds to provide for these surgeries as well as cover the victim’s travel costs to hospitals that provide them.
An acid assault has long- term effects on the victim, who will be subjected to constant pain, irreparable damage, and other issues for the rest of her life. Their lives become miserable; they are too terrified and embarrassed to leave their house and perform simple duties, let alone marry, have children, find a job, go to school, and so on. Even if they want to live a regular life, given their appearance and limitations after an attack, there is no guarantee that society will consider them normal human beings, and hence they must constantly battle to exist. As a result, in order to reduce attacks against women, stern punishment is required. Indian legal system had undergone significant changes prior to the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013. Previously, the focus was solely on proving if the accused committed the crime and what penalty the prisoner should get. However, this modification not only added Sections 326A and 326B to the Indian Penal Code, 1860, but it also attempted to make the law work for the victims rather than against them. This means that now, in addition to the sentence to be given to the culprit, the victims of acid attacks will be compensated and rehabilitated.
BY- JHARANA JENA
Masters in Social Work, 1st Division
N.C Autonomous College, Jajpur