Acid Attack:- An Urge to Disfigure One's Life
Written by: Anushka & Sanghamitra Khawas, Students, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun
Even though society has started recognizing the distinct identity of woman, considering women to be active participants in various sectors, there is a rapid increase in the violence against women all around the world. Gender-based violence is an endemic that includes acid attacks, rape, forced abortions, child marriages, etc. In this article, we will be particularly focusing on acid attack violence in India.
The acid attack also is known by the name of acid violence or vitriolage appears as a vicious act that explicitly shows the seriousness of the never-ending atrocities along with human rights violations. An acid attack involves the deliberate act of throwing acid on any body parts but usually on the face of a woman that would result in burning and dissolution of the skin, tissue and bones of the victim. This not only tarnishes the physical appearance of the person but also coerces the person to lead a secluded life.
When acid-filled in the bulb is thrown at the victim, it spills on the face and other parts of the body. Acid can also be thrown directly from bottle/container/ syringe/jug. Mostly two-wheelers (motorcycle/scooter) are used in the commitment of acid attacks to escape quickly from the crime scene. The victims are attacked for various reasons.  Two of the main reasons for the increasing number of acid attacks are the easy availability of acid in the market and the culprit’s intention of not killing the victim but to leave her in a mortifying condition as in the patriarchal society the physical appearance is the prime feature of marriage. In many cases when the woman repudiates the sexual advances of a man hitting the ego of the man and therefore the man desires vengeance. Also in many cases, a woman is attacked because she or her family has simply denied a marriage proposal of a vindictive lover. In the male dominant society, women are considered the second class society influenced by social norms. The social norms reward men to be aggressive, powerful, controlling and therefore men are more reluctant to consider the concept of gender equality and often indulge in this cold preplanned act. Howsoever there are other reasons of the acid attacks also which include marital disputes, dowry demands, land disputes and political rivalries.
EFFECTS OF ACID ATTACKS
The most consequential effect of an acid attack is the lifelong appalling disfigurement. The physical effects of an acid attack are expansive. The gravity of the damage relies on the concentration of the acid thrown and the duration before the acid is washed off with water or any neutralizing agent. The acid is capable of eating away the skin, the fat layer beneath the skin, and even the bones in some instances. Acid attack victims could also face septicemia, renal and even death. The 226th report of the Law Commission of India enumerated the physical effects of an acid attack in detail. The gruesome physical effects of an acid attack do not surpass the psychological, social and economic consequences of the heinous act. The misery of acid attack leads to depression, insomnia, nightmares and in few cases psychosis and the fear of facing the outside world. The victim unceasingly feels depressed, abashed and lonesome. Their life gets confined to their homes because of the social stigma of an attack that cannot be hidden from the outside world.
The lack of self-worth and lack of the support of society adds another dimension to the suffering of the victim. For example, if the acid attack blinds the victim, it becomes difficult for the victim to earn their livelihood on their own. This results in being completely dependent on others and in some cases the amount of the medical expenses as an added burden to some of the families as the expenses are beyond their means.
LAWS RELATED TO ACID ATTACK
In 2013 the Criminal law Amendment Act came into existence on the subject of gender-related violence against women. The amendment procured a series of changes in the Indian penal Code and the Code of Criminal procedure.
1. In 2013 acid attack was recognized; section 326 A (punishment of acid throwing that is 10 years imprisonment that could be extended up to life imprisonment along with fine) and section 326 B (punishment of attempted acid throwing that is 5 years of imprisonment that could be extended up to 7 years along with fine) was included in the Indian Penal Code.
2. Section 166 A and 166 B was included in the Indian Penal Code with reference to the recording of information in relation with Section 326 A and 326 B or infringement to the rules laid down in 357A of Code of Criminal procedure that directs the payment of fines to the victims of crimes, shall be punishable by law.
3. Section 154 was included in the Criminal procedure Code, the section laid down that any information with reference to acid violation if given by a female victim, the statement shall be taken down by female police officer.
4. Section 357 A and 357 C were included in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Section 357 A was included in 2008 that ensured compensation for victims (acid attack victims also) under the Victim Compensation Scheme. Section 357 C was included in 2013 that instructed all hospital, public or private to immediately provide first aid or the required medical help free of cost to the acid attack victims.
In Parivartan Kendra v. UOI two Dalit girls of Bihar who were attacked by four assailants who threw acid on the face and bodies of the girls while they were sleeping on their rooftops. The Supreme Court issued a direction that the State Governments/UT’s should seriously discuss and take up the matter with all the private hospitals in their areas to the extent that they shall not deny any treatment to the victims of acid attack including medicine, food, bedding and reconstructive surgeries. The court also said that the State and UT’s shall also keep a check on the distribution of acids within that area and take stringent action against people supplying acid without proper authorization.
In Ramesh Dey and Others v State of West Bengal, the accused had made a previous attempt to throw acid on the victim, succeeding on the second attempt. The motive for the crime was revenge, as the victim had rejected the overtures of the main accused Ramesh. The accused along with two others went to the victim’s house and threw a bottle of acid on the victim outside her house where she, her mother, her aunt and her little son were sitting. The victim, her mother, her aunt and her son sustained injuries. The victim, Padma, died due to extensive acid burns on the neck, chest, breasts, legs, knees and scalp. The additional sessions Judge awarded imprisonment for life and a fine for Rs. 5,000 under Section 302 and 34 of the IPC. The appellants were also convicted under Section 324/34 IPC and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of one year and to pay a fine of Rs. 1,000 each in default to suffer simple imprisonment for two months.
In Revinder Singh v State of Haryana, acid was poured on a woman by her husband for refusing to grant him a divorce. The husband was involved in an extra-marital affair. Due to the attack, the victim suffered multiple acid burns on her face and other parts of her body leading to her death. The accused was charged and convicted under Section 302 of the IPC. However, life imprisonment was not imposed even though the victim had died.
1. Violence against women and girls is rooted in gender-based discrimination and social norms and gender stereotypes that perpetuate such violence. The best way to end acid violence is to prevent it from happening in the first place by addressing its root causes. Education is critical in the prevention of acid attacks and other forms of violence against women and girls.
2. National governments hold the ultimate responsibility for introducing and implementing laws and policies around acid violence against women and girls. Therefore governments should be, held accountable for doing so.
3. It is pertinent to note here that there is an absence of expeditious investigation and trial of the acid attack cases, that needs to be worked on and achieved within a particular time frame.
Acid Attack is a heinous crime which tends to scar the life of a victim forever, the sale of acid is still not being regulated properly. Rather than deciding on the compensation that the victim should get, more emphasis should be placed on the preventive measures, prohibiting the sale of acids would itself finish the root cause of the crime, there should be more implementation of laws than making new one’s.
Parivartana Kendra v. UOI,3 SCC 571  Ravinder Singh v. State of Haryana, AIR 856,(SC 2016)
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