Every now and then, there are ghastly reports of acids being thrown at women in some or the other part of India. There is no official figure to go by, but these brutal instances of barbarism have scarred a great number of women. Acid attacks will continue to be reported in the absence of proper enforcement of laws. Although these attacks now carry lengthier jail sentences, the laws would not necessarily change mindsets and reverse the horrific trend. It is also tarnishing India’s image. International commentators have written about our stagnant mindsets and animalistic tendencies when it came to women.
Why are acids, some of which are used for industrial purposes, so easily available? Shouldn’t there be stricter checks? Compensation and free medical treatment for victims are issues that needs special attention, the lack of which has further worsens their plight.
From insignificant quarrels to being broken in love, reasons that trigger acid attacks are varied and trivial. The attacker cannot bear the fact that he has been rejected and seeks to destroy the body of the woman who has dared to stand up to him. The perpetrator wants to disfigure the victims and turn them into a monster.
Unless the Government tackles this curse with an iron fist, Indian women will continue to suffer at the hands of such animals.
Sonali Mukherjee, living in Dhanbad in eastern India, had one evening objected to the pranks of some neighbourhood boys. It was nothing, really, but the boys’ ego got hurt. They felt challenged by a girl. While she was sleeping at night, the culprits threw acid on her face from the window. This happened over a decade ago.
Hope and inner strength that she cultivated in these intervening years helped her survive and today, her life will likely change once more, for the good.
Women with disfigured faces are generally rejected. Very rarely does someone with a heart of gold come forward to take a victim’s hand. Most of these men are generally sympathetic and caring, but not necessarily in love. Sonali got lucky. She recently tied the knot with Chittaranjan Tiwari, who is madly in love with her. They don’t make men like Chittaranjan anymore. She is blind in one eye and the face is heavily disfigured, but Chittaranjan, an electrical engineer, fell in love with her… unfortunately, not every victim is accepted as a wife or a girlfriend.
Laxmi became very popular as a victim who banged the Court’s door. The family was poor, still is, and were fortunate to get the support of a noble soul, who pitched in close to three Lacs as medical expenses. She went through four plastic surgeries but is still nowhere even close to how she appeared before.
Sexual harassment, marital rape, acid attacks, honour killings, dowry violence, child abuse, stalking…. there is no end to such animalistic tendencies in some people.
Even the celebrities have been blemished.
Kangana Ranaut accused Aditya Pancholi of assaulting her. Bollywood queen from the retro era, Zeenat Aman, broke up with Sanjay Khan when he brutally assaulted her. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan had also said that she had been the victim of domestic violence in real life. Kalki has faced Child abuse. Lady Gaga too was raped when she was 19.
Women like Sonali Mukherjee and Laxmi are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more who fail to get the attention of India through media. They suffer in silence while we enjoy the beautiful life. Surely, there are those who support and fund their medical expenses, but it’s not even close enough.
The victims of acid attack need both short-term as well as long-term specialized medical treatments and plastic surgeries. The provisions in the Indian law for giving compensation to the victims are insufficient. The Indian Government must introduce stricter laws, set examples out of those who dare to defile women’s body.
There needs to be amendments in Criminal Procedure Code and laws for dealing with acid attack as a special offence. Guidelines ought to be framed and an act be passed to attend to the needs of all the acid attack victims in India.
The Government needs to adopt measures for the proper treatment, aftercare and rehabilitation of the victims of acid attacks. Most importantly, acid in all forms be made a scheduled banned chemical which is not readily available over the counter.
The Law Commission has also examined the laws relating to acid attacks in different countries. It will help them devise laws that are effective.