Acid Attack: A scarring reality for women in India
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Acid Attack: A scarring reality for women in India

At least 72% of reported attacks included at least one female victim

Acid Attack: A scarring reality for women in India

“Woman is the destiny of the world,
Yet woman is demeaned by destiny,
Woman begets incarnations and apostles,
Yet woman is the daughter of Satan.”

These lines have been taken from the mesmerising number ‘Aurat ne janam diya mardon ko, mardon ne usse bazaar diya’ from the film Sadhana, straight from the rebel poet Sahir (magician) Ludhinavi’s heart. Revealing the same dystopian reality, at least 228 acid attack cases were reported across India in 2018 and the number was 249 in 2019 according to the data shared by National Crime Record Bureau. The number of acid attack cases reported in 2020 was 182 and 176 in 2021. There were also 73 cases of attempted acid attacks across the county in 2021. A spurt in acid attack cases this year has also been a cause of grave concern in the wake of the Supreme Court ban on its retail sale.

Acid attacks have a gendered aspect to them. Analysis of news reports revealed at least 72% of reported attacks included at least one female victim. The incidence rate of chemical assaults increased in the past decade, with a high number of 27 reported cases in 2010. Altogether, from January 2002 to October 2010, 153 cases of acid assault were reported in Indian print media while 174 judicial cases were reported for the year 2000.

The motivation behind acid attacks in India is - Revenge, viz. 34% of the analysed print media cited rejection of marriage or refusal by women of sexual advances as the cause of the attack and dowry disagreements have been shown to spur acid attacks. Land, property, and/or business disputes accounted for 20% of acid assaults from 2002 to 2010.

Acid throwing, also called an acid attack, a vitriol attack or vitriolage, is a form of violent assault defined as the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another “with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill”. Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The long-term consequences of these attacks may include blindness, as well as permanent scarring of the face and body, along with far-reaching social, psychological, and economic difficulties.

However, questions are being raised over the rampant sale of acid in markets and the ban seems to exist only on paper as acid is as easy to get as vegetables despite a ban on its retail sale.

It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had in 2013 banned over-the-counter sale of acid at retail outlets following an increase in the number of acid attacks and ordered a compensation of Rs. 3 lakh to be paid by state governments to each acid attack victim.

However, the irony is that the Supreme Court’s direction that penalties collected from those illegally selling acid have to be used for rehabilitation of acid attack survivors are not being followed.

It is unfortunate that despite repetitive recommendations of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), the retail sale of acid is not banned. Acid is being sold openly in markets, unchecked. In fact, it is as easy to obtain acid as it is to purchase vegetables! The government must ban the retail sale of acid. Further, the strictest punishment must be given to the perpetrators because when a girl is attacked with acid, her soul is scarred and her life is ruined. Words can’t do any justice. We have to instil fear of immeasurable pain in these animals (culprits).