In India, acid has often been used as a weapon against women who have turned down advances by men. Despite strict laws and punishments, the number of acid attacks in India continues to increase. Acid attacks are seen as one of the most vicious crimes as it causes perpetual suffering to the victim. The male perpetrators disfigure women as a form of revenge. Perhaps the most dangerous thing about acid attacks is the fear that they create. With just a few rupees, anyone can buy a weapon that can ruin another person’s life in just a few seconds. Mainly, the reason is that acid is cheap and widely available. Many Indians use concentrated acid to sterilise their kitchens and bathrooms, as Americans would use as bleach. A concrete sign of progress in law-making has been the recent ordinance on violence against women, which, among other provisions, included two new sections in the Indian Penal Code (Sections 326A, which prescribes a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment for deadly acid attacks that leave the victims grievously injured and causing severe permanent or partial damage and disability, and Section 326B that makes plans and attempts to fling acid on another punishable with a jail term of between five and seven years with fine). Besides, Section 326A also envisages a fine that can go up to Rs 10 lakh and the amount should go to the victim. In many cases, the victims were poor and did not have the means to take up their cases in court. Moreover, the attacks leave the victims in a state of shock and in hospital for months, which helps the accused to either escape or manipulate the law. When a man throws acid on a woman, his intention is to subjugate her and show her who is in charge. Men resort to violent attacks as women assert themselves by challenging men’s authority and expectations. There are many unreported cases of acid attacks where victims die, especially in rural areas. Sometimes people try to hide information if the attacker was the husband or a family member of the victim. Experts say that the biggest challenge for an acid attack victim is meeting the medical expenses, as they need multiple surgeries, and rehabilitation could take years or even decades. Such attacks in particular constitute is an act of animalism, brutality and cruelty and degradation of human society which deserves maximum punishment beyond forgiveness, but when the victim or the victim’s family stand before the law the punishment meted out to the accused is often inconsistent with the gravity of the offence committed. There is an immense need to come out with legal measures and medical reforms by our government to help these victims. Men who commit these crimes are usually spurned suitors who want to avenge their rejection. The men should be punished in a way that no one will ever think of attempting to ruin a girl’s life.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)