Tales of Survival

“She is not a victim; she is a survivor. The man who attacked her will cover his face, she won’t.”

Crime is the main evil of society. Every second a new crime occurs and for that, we have to be anxious. Do you ever think that a household item can become the weapon of crime, and destroy a person’s life? Acid Attack is one of the worst crimes against society, and especially against women. Everyone wants a good-looking face then why do such crimes occur?

An Acid Attack is a kind of violent act against a female where the wrongdoer tries to harm the body of the person. According to various case studies, the most common reason, behind such barbarity, is the refusal to establish relations with the other person or, refusing to marry or give dowry, etc. In most cases, women are the victims. In Acid Attack, Sulfuric Acid and Nitric Acid are commonly used. The increasing crime against women led to various laws being also made for the survivors.

Today, many cases are reported everywhere around the world, especially in developing countries. It is a common crime in South Asia. Due to various cases of Acid attacks, lawmakers decided to add a new provision for the punishment of this crime in the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Acid has been used in Metallurgy and etching since ancient times. Sulfuric Acid, also known as “Vitriol”, was first manufactured on an industrial scale in England in the 1740s, and after that people used it as a weapon in Western Europe and the United States as they acquired it easily. In addition to being favoured as a weapon in labour clashes, sulfuric acid was used as a weapon in domestic disputes. For instance, in 1865, New York Times reported that a jealous husband was arrested by the police for disfiguring the face of his wife.

Subsequently, the use of acid as a weapon began to gain prominence in South Asian Countries. The first case of acid attack in South Asia occurred in Bangladesh in 1967 and then in India in 1982 and Cambodia in 1993. The percentage of acid attacks has increased day by day since.

In India, according to the Report of the National Crime Record Bureau, 1,483 Victims were reported between 2014 to 2018. In between these years Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Delhi have been consistently ranking among the ten worst states.

In Afghanistan, such an attack takes place against women who fail to wear “Hijab”. In Bangladesh, these attack happens against women due to non-acceptance of marriage proposals (55% of the cases are due to this), property disputes, etc. In Pakistan, according to a report by the Acid Survivors Foundation Pakistan, most cases have occurred due to domestic disputes.

In the United Kingdom, according to the London’s Metropolitan Police, London is the hub of Acid Attacks and 2017 year was the worst. According to Time Magazine, the reasons behind these attacks are domestic violence and revenge.

Research scholars often state in their reports that the countries typically associated with acid attacks include Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, the United States, etc.

The most notable effect of an Acid Attack is the permanent disfigurement of the body. Every attack leaves its mark on the victim. The victims are faced with many challenges like Medical, Psychological, Social, and Economic.

The medical effect of the acid attack is very extensive. Most of the attacks are aimed at the face hence lips, nose, ears, and eyes are very badly damaged. The skull is partly destroyed and hair is lost. Sometimes the attack on the face results in permanent blindness. Excluding these common effects, sometimes acid attack victims face the possibility of sepsis, kidney failure, and even death.

The survivors face many mental and psychological issues. They may go into depression, struggle with anxiety, self-esteem, body image issues, low confidence, etc. Anxiety and depression are highly reported after the attack.

Social effects also play a vital role in the victim’s life along with the above-mentioned effects. Many implications exist for survivors, especially women. They become dependent on their family members and spouses for everyday activities. They also face difficulty in resuming jobs or getting employed elsewhere. Due to acid attacks, the married life of a woman also takes a turn for worse and hence, divorce cases have also increased.

The treatment of Acid Attacks is also quite expensive and it is like a gamble. The victim spends on their treatment but there is no sure shot chance that the treatment will be successful.

In India, after the cases of Sonali Mukerjee and Laxmi Aggarwal, the demand for acid sale regulations and new laws took place. Sonali Mukherjee drew the attention of the public when she appealed for Euthanasia in the Supreme Court of India.

There used to be no provision in our laws for this crime, but after the 18th Law Commission’s report, headed by Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, new Sections 326(A), 326(B) were added in the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Apart from these two sections in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Section 325 and Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code are also applicable in these kinds of attacks.

Grievous Hurt is a penal offence and is defined under Section 320 of IPC. According to this section, grievous hurt includes emasculation, permanent privation of either ear or either eye, permanent disfigurement of head or face, any hurt which endangers life. Punishment for causing grievous hurt is given under Section 325. In some cases, Section 307 which deals with Attempt to Murder, is also imposed upon the accused dependent on the severity of the crime.

After several cases of attack, the Supreme Court passed an order in a case and banned the selling of acid openly in shops. According to the guidelines given, a seller cannot sell acid unless he maintains the record of its sales. The buyer has to show their Government approved identity card to the seller, and the seller has to register all the details of the buyer along with the reason for buying the acid. It cannot be sold to minors. The seller has to take permission from the Administration before storing acid and has to provide information about sales if any. If the seller violates these guidelines then he will be liable to pay a fine. Acid Attack is a non-bailable and cognizable offence in India.

The Government of India also took an initiative regarding separate legislation for the Rehabilitation of Acid Attack Survivor. The Government presented “The Prevention of Acid Attack and Rehabilitation of Acid Attack Victims Bill, 2017” in the Rajya Sabha dated on August 4, 2017. However, it is still pending.

An Acid Attack has long-lasting consequences on the life of the victim who faces perpetual torture, permanent damage, and various other problems for the rest of her life. They become too traumatized and embarrassed to even walk out of their houses and carry out simple everyday tasks, let alone get married, have children, get a job, go to school, etc. Even if they are willing to pursue a normal life, there is no guarantee that society will treat them as normal human beings given their appearance and disabilities after the attack. They may not be able to work, or find a job, and thus perpetually struggle to barely survive. Therefore, to curb attacks on women harsh punishments should be awarded to the guilty, to deter further crimes.

The magnitude of such crimes are very high and are only increasing each passing day. Hence, the government, instead of making various legislations and leaving it at that, must also work vigorously toward implementing the laws to put a stop to this barbaric crime and sentence the guilty to the harshest of punishments. So that, perpetrators are afraid and do not disfigure and destroy another life on a mere whim.

There could also be awareness programmes aimed at sensitising and educating the youth as well as the adults. So that the victims are not ostracised from society and are accepted as their own, and are able to get jobs and live their lives without further enhanced difficulties.

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