Women in India have faced gender abuse in various forms, such as the rigid and inhumane Sati Pratha, child marriage, and widow atrocities. The problem still remains the same. However, their forms have changed. Women in India face acid attacks as one of the foremost contemporary problems. An analysis of several news reports indicated that 72% of acid attack victims included at least one female. The primary cause behind several acid attack incidents on women in India was their rejection of sex and marriage proposals. Apart from it, dowry, domestic violence, and the undesirability of girl child have been the other reasons.
An acid attack case took place in the Dwarka region of West Delhi earlier this December. Two men on a motorbike threw acid on a 17-year-old girl while she was on her way to school. The girl was taken to several hospitals but was finally referred to Safdarjung Hospital. Police investigation reveals that the acid was procured through an online e-commerce portal. It raises pressing questions regarding the laws on acid attacks.
LAWS ON ACID ATTACK
The first case of acid attack occurred in India in 1982 and several cases followed thereafter on women in India. But the first law concerning the act came in the year 2013. The law emphasizes equal responsibility for the seller as well as the buyer. It also provides aid to the victim and has provisions for punishing the accused.
Sellers and Buyers
The law mandates that the sellers have a license for the sale of acid. It also suggests that the sellers maintain the record of the buyers and the various details such as their name, the quantity of acid produced, and their address. For the buyers, it is mandatory to provide a government-approved identity document and a valid reason for their purchase.
Victim and Accused
The Ministry of Home Affairs stated that the victim should be provided free medical treatment and compensation of three lakhs which one lakh should be provided within 15 days of the acid attack. Under Section 326a, of the Indian Penal Code, the accused is sentenced to a minimum imprisonment of 10 years or more if permanent damage or disability is caused to the victim. Also, under Section 326b, the accused is sentenced to imprisonment of 5 to 7 years if an attempt is made to throw acid and cause damage.
LOOPHOLES IN THE SYSTEM
Free medical treatment for the victims is mandatory. However, government hospitals do not have the proper equipment for dealing with such cases. The process of filing FIR and investigating is inefficient. Most of the time the police officers are unaware of the specific laws while lodging the FIR. Moreover, the compensation is too less for long-term treatment and surgeries which are too expensive. The accused gets away because the victim is unable to identify them due to loss of sight during the acid attack.
Society and Social Stigma
Many-a-times, women in India are hesitant to file an FIR against the accused because of the social stigma associated. In the cases where a woman is a victim, society declares her only as the prime accused. This is a common mentality, faced by women in India in the society. Many women lose their jobs because their colleagues at their workplace discriminate against them. People in the neighborhood start maintaining distance from the victims and their families making them socially isolated.
Afterlife of Survivors
Acid attacks have primarily been happening with women in India. Thus, the acid attack has a gender-specific dimension attached to them. The major motive of the assailant is not to kill the victim but to inflict them with a lifetime of suffering from which they would never be able to recover. Such attacks happening with women in India are made so as to cause damage to their “beauty” which is of prime importance for a woman according to society. It completely demoralizes the victim and leaves a deep psychological impact on the victim. After each stage of recovery, there should be regular counseling which is an often-ignored aspect. However, there is a ray of hope because the survivors demand opportunities and want to be independent. Even though they know that their life would never be the same as before they don’t sit back. Though the acid burnt their skin it did not have the potential to burn their dreams.