Acid Attack

Horrifying story of a 27-year-old girl named Sonali  Mukherjee from Dhanbad, who was gravely injured in an acid attack nine years back has come to light. The terrible night of April 22, 2003 completely destroyed her life. The three assailants, who were reported to be her neighbours had jumped into her house and poured acid on her face while she was asleep. Sonali had claimed that the assaulters used to repeatedly tease and harass her and when she opposed them they attacked her with the acid, which left her blind and partially deaf. With no help from government, Sonali now wants to die and has demanded euthanasia as she cannot afford her medical costs. Sonali, whose face was completely disfigured after the attack, needs at least 12-15 lakhs for medical treatment, which her family can’t afford. Nine years of medical treatment has left her family with no money. The 27-year-old, who is commuting between Jharkhand and the national capital, approached Minister for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath  for monetary relief, who further has requested help from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. Sonali has been pleading for help from various chief ministers during the nine year period, but no help was provided to her. Meanwhile, her attackers Tapas Mitra,  Sanjay Paswan and Brahmadev Hajra are out in open.  Mitra and Paswan were sentenced to three years in jail and now are out on bail while Hajra was let off for being juvenile. This class of incidence happens often not only in India but all over the world.

Laxmi,  a young girl ,faced similar situation when she refused to marry the accused. She was attacked by acid and as a result her arm’s, face and other body parts were gravely blemished and deformed. Other such incidence when two minor girls were seriously injured in Panchpedva police area of the Balrampur district. A goldsmith and his two sons, were attacked by acid when they were on their way for home to Sullia. Acid was thrown on a boy in model town who had come to see his girl friend in model town area of Ludhiana.
-Acid throwing (acid attack or vitriolage) is a form of violent assault. It is defined as the act of throwing acid onto the body of a person “with the intention of injuring or disfiguring him out of jealousy or revenge”. Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often resulting in their bones getting dissolved.  The long term consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring of the face and body

Acid attacks are proliferating in India.  Acid attack is a crime which can be committed against any man or woman. Approximately the targets of acid attacks are women, notably the young women. The acid is generally thrown at the victims’s face to make them ugly and disfigure them. What are the reasons behind these attacks?

The reasons are multifarious such as rejecting proposals of marriage, denying for dowry, robbery, jealousy, land disputes etc.

While very little data is available on acid attacks in India some studies have reported an increasing trend in cases relating to acid attack. According to a study 174 cases of acid attack were reported in India in year 2000. In this regard, the Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAAW) noted one incidence in Bangalore in July 2004 that was not included as part of the reported cases partly because the victim and her family have opted not to go public with their trauma. The number of  cases  recorded in 2006 in Karnataka was 53 and, as reported by the CSAAAW, verdicts were given in only 9 of these 53 cases. A newspaper report put the total number of acid attacks as 60 in 2007 in Karnataka alone ,adding 7 more cases  by February end in 2007.

In most of these cases, Hydrochloric and sulphuric acid were used and all the Victims were women. Hydrochloric, Sulphuric and other acids all have a catastrophic effect on human skin. These corrosive substances cause the skin tissue to melt. The bones  become exposed and sometimes the acid dissolves the bones too.

Furthermore, if acid enters the eyes of the victim during an attack, as is common in acid attack cases, it damages them  permanently. Many acid attack survivors have lost  their  one or both eyes. An acid attack has long lasting affects on the life of the victim.  It affects them physically as well as mentally or we can say physiologically they feel themselves worthless, they hesitate to face people around them, and they become social outcasts because of their appearance. It is difficult for them to do their own work, to get job, to live a normal life. They feel shy as they fear that people will stare and laugh at them. Their wish to lead a normal life is thwarted by the very fear of being mocked at, at one or the other point of time in life. Acid attacks are seen as one of the most heinous crimes as it causes perpetual suffering to the victim. Victims face lifetime physical, social, psychological and economic consequences.

India is not having separate law for such types of acid attacks; cases have been registered under different section of the Indian Penal Code.

What can be done to stop such horrendous act of crime? Government should strictly make law for the acid attackers because unless and until it is not done and imposed ,these types of attack will be frequent as the criminal knows that no such action will be taken against them. Further, acid should not be sold by the casual standards of selling .  Such inhumane act of crime should be strictly dealt with at all levels of society  and we ,as citizens, and more importantly as human beings ,will have to be determined to cancel  even the slightest of chances of the act getting executed.

The Union cabinet on 19 July 2012 approved a proposal that seek to make rape a gender-neutral offence. With the cabinet giving its nod to the proposal, now, the word rape  will be replaced with sexual assault. Under the current definition of rape (Section 375 of Indian Penal Code) a man is said to have  committed a  rape when he has sexual intercourse with a woman against her will. The amendment will expand the definition to cover male victims of sexual assault.

The cabinet also approved a proposal which said the IPC will have a separate section (326-A) that would cover injury, hurt, burns and disfigurement of any body part of a person (male or female) by acid. The offence would draw a punishment of 10-year imprisonment and a penalty of 10 lakh rupees.

The cabinet further decided to change the definition of a minor. At present some sections of the IPC and the Criminal Procedure Code consider those below 16, as minor. Following the amendment ,a person below 18 would be considered as minor.

The age of consent has also been raised from existing 16 years to 18 years. However, it is proposed that the sexual intercourse by a man with own wife being under sixteen years of age will not be considered as sexual assault.

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