AUTHORED BY: Himanshi Gulati
AMITY LAW SCHOOL
“FATE WORSE THAN DEATH”
CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF ACID VIOLENCE IN INDIA AND OTHER WESTERN COUNTRIES.
This research talks about the Acid Attack Violence: A Callous and Cruel form of violence which is the act of throwing acid or similar corrosive substance for with the intent to disfigure. It is a deep-rooted social wrong. Acid Attack violence occurs in many countries but it is more prevalent in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Cambodia. Acid attack is the act perpetrated by men as a result of shame, loss of face or honor. Acid attacks are the gender-based crime. These men feel insulted that a woman could turn them down. It is the bigoted thinking of the society that women are weaker than men so, men are unable to take rejection from a woman. Developing an understanding of the motivations and an etiology of this form of violence is the focus of this research. This research will explore factors that tend to contribute to acid attack violence and the scenario in our and other western countries with reference to some high-profile cases in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Cambodia.
Acid Attack is a vitriol act or vitriol age which means violent assault1. It involves throwing of corrosive acids on another person. Acid attack victims are both men and women but it is more specific to women. Women are responsible for giving birth in the society unfortunately they are made to lose their lives in name of different brutalities such as acid attacks, physical abuse and burning her to death.
Acid attack has emerged as a brutal act that shows the gravity of the ongoing atrocities and human rights violations. The crime of acid attack is the intentional act wherein acid is thrown or poured on the face or other body parts of the victims. The barbaric crime of the acid violence can be seen in many countries; however, it is more prevalent in countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Cambodia. The 226th law commission of India report as well as the justice Verma committee report2 admits the heinous crime of acid attacks has a specific gender dimension in India.
Acid attackers generally target young girls with the intent to disfigure the face of the victim. The most common types of acids used to attack victims are hydrochloric3, sulfuric4 and nitric acids5. The reason behind this atrocious crime are many, namely rejection of love, marriage proposal, refusal to pay dowry, rejection of sexual advances property or family or marital disputes or family disputes like refusal to give divorce. Acid attack results into severe physical, psychological and socio-economic consequences and makes the life of a victim worse than death. It is a complex and multi-dimensional problem that makes it very difficult for the survivors to return to normalcy.
1.“Man who threw acid on women blame two others” LA Times 19 march 1992, retrieved 20 April 2016.
2.This report was submitted by Justice Verma committee on amendments to criminal law. This committee was constituted by government of India on December 23, 2012.
3.Hydrochloric acid is used to make soy sauce, cosmetics, and traditional medicines and to polish jewelry.
4.Sulfuric acid is the world’s largest volume industrial chemical used to manufacture explosives, dyes, glue, wood preservatives, weaving and automobile batteries.
5.Nitric acid is used by goldsmith, jewelers, brass makers to purify gold and metals.
Acid is thrown reportedly by the criminal on medium moving motor cycles or on public roads, as it is the easiest medium of escape even in the broad daylight. Therefore, acid throwing6 is an aggressive crime growing rapidly, in which the person doing the crime seeks to inflict severe mental or physical trauma on the innocent victim. Rampant sale of acid, without checking of any proper documents during the time of sale, can be considered as one of the main reasons of spreading of this crime like a fire. Some activists have been calling for stricter restrictions on the sale of acids which are commonly used in the attacks.
It is estimated that the first acid attack case occurred in India in the 1982 since then the severity of the acid attacks have increased in the region. The first acid attack case as recorded outside however was in 1967 in Bangladesh and in 1993 in Cambodia7.
In India there were no such specific legislations for the acid attacks and no provisions were made to define acid attack in Indian Penal Code8. It was only after 2013 that the need for amending the laws and providing importance to acid attack cases was felt.
This study investigates the issue of acid attack violence on innocent victims. The purpose of this research is to develop an increased understanding of acid attacks through a comparison in cases of different countries and to speculate the reason of its occurrence. Its objective is to identify and enumerate the different ways of understanding acid attack violence including the scale and scope of issue, to explore the sociocultural imperatives of shame, loss of face, and loss of honor, to understand various provisions under law for acid attacks and to determine the various reasons of motivation and causes for acid attacks with particular reference to other western countries.
6.Acid shall mean and include any substances which have the character of acidic or corrosive or burning nature that is capable of causing bodily injuries leading to scars or temporary or permanent disability.
7.Welsh, Jane “It was like burning in hell” A comprehensive exploration of Acid attacks violence”.
8.Bangladesh, India, Cambodia have ratified the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
1.1 WHAT IS ACID ATTACK?
Acid violence refers to the thought-out act of throwing corrosive acid on the face and body, with the intent to disfigure, torture, or kill the victim9, the acid melts the flesh, sometimes to the bone10, and causes lifelong scarring, physical mutilation, and in some cases, permanent incapacity including blindness and immobility. Acid violence not only has a weighty physical impact, but causes strong psychological suffering, with survivors often reporting depression, anxiety and post-harrowing stress.
When acid is thrown on a person, the results can be perturbing. Nitric, hydrochloric, or sulfuric acid all have catastrophic effect on human flesh. It causes the skin tissue to melt, often uncovering the bones below the flesh, sometimes even dissolving the bone. When acid attacks the eyes, it harms these vital organs permanently. Many survivors have lost the use of their both eyes11. The victim is devastated physically, psychologically and socially.
An acid attack on your body would completely change your life. Most survivors of an acid attack are forced to give up their schooling, their profession and all other important things in their life. This is because recovering from trauma is not easy for any of them and it takes up most of their time and because the disfigurement debilitate and handicaps them in every conceivable way.
The marks left by acid are not just skin deep, victims are most often faced with social isolation and ostracize that further damages their self-esteem, self-confidence and seriously weakens their professional and personal future. Women who have survive acid attacks have great difficulty in finding work and if unmarried, as many victims mostly are single girls, they have very little chance of ever getting married, which is socially isolating in a country like Bangladesh.
9.Breaking the silence: addressing acid attacks in Cambodia (May 2010)
10.Bangladesh efforts to stop the violence, Jordan.
Although acid throwing is a type of violence known to have been prevailing all the way through history, there is a sheer rise in the number of cases recognized in recent years. Some of this increase has been attribute to better documentation and survivors reporting the attacks more often. However, there appears to be a substantive increase in the number of acid attacks committed in recent years.
1.2 FACTORS RESPONSIBLE FOR ACID ATTACKS:
To understand why acid attacks happens in India, it is important to understand the VAW (Violence against women) in this country. Numerous reports and studies of the various forms of VAW in India have been completed, particularly on the issues of domestic violence and dowry death12. Statistics on domestic violence in India suggest that 45 percent of women are slapped, or beaten by their husbands (Ministry of women and child development). According to the crime against women report by the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRCB), in 2007, 20, 737 women reported being raped, 75,930 women reported being tortured and 38,734 women reported being molested. However, despite these grim statistics, due to the sheer scale of the county and other factors including under resourcing at medical centers and police stations, there is considerable underreporting of this issue in India. Contributing factors of domestic violence in India are closely linked to those of acid attack violence, and include: societal stratification, changing gender roles, insecurity, shame and loss of honor, jealousy, patriarchy, aggression and frustration.
- The law commission of India in its 226th report has asserted that the majority of acid attack victims are women – “particularly young women for spurning suitors, for rejecting proposals of marriage, for denying dowry etc. The attacker is not able to take the fact that he has been rejected by the women and seeks to destroy the body of the women who has dare to stand up to him”13. A renowned academician Afroza Anwari in his study emphasized that how acid is used by men on women as
12. See Subhadra Panchanadeswaran and Catherine Koverola, The voices of battered women in violence against women 2005; 11; 736; Ram swami Mahalingam and Jana Haritatos, Essentialism and Cultural psychology of gender in extreme son preference communities in India, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 2007.
13. 226th Law Commission of India, Proposal for the Inclusion of Acid Attacks as specific Offences in the Indian Penal Code and a Law for Compensation for victims of crime 7(July 2009).
a mark of their masculinity and superiority over women to keep women in their place14. Acid is used as weapon to silence and control women by destroying what is constructed as the primary constituent of her identity. Anwari in his study further maintained that in a patriarchal and conservative societies, overemphasis is laid on marriage of a girl. Women have been limited to their virginity and fair complexion. Her romantic relationship prior to her marriage is odious15. When the girl turns down the proposal of vengeful lovers for marriage or is rejected by the family of hers, they resort to acid attack. There is also an economic aspect to acid attacks in view of globalization. The financial independence of women in a society of unemployed men creates antagonism in them.
- “Deteriorating economic conditions, high unemployment rates among male bread-winners, the growing number of powerless households, and the absence of pastoral work for male laborers” are the major reasons for their pique. Thus, women who are burdened with the onus of earning for the family are often made victim of acid by their husbands and In-laws when they fail to live up to their expectations as homemakers in their conservative sexual roles. Property disputes is another cause for such violence on women. The motivation of acid attacks on women can be attribute to various factors and feelings. Some men throw acid on women in order to demean them, some do to show their superiority over the women. Men want their everlasting control over women’s fate.
- Study of Indian News Reports, from January 2002 to October 2012 uncovered that victim’s rejection for love and marriage proposals motivate attacks in 35% of the different new stories, providing an intention for the attack16. Furthermore, leading organization working for acid attack victims published another report. The Campaign and Struggle against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAAW) found that sexual harassment or assault in response to a women or girl refusing such advances or demanding that the violence should stop often precede such attacks. This shows the society’s outlook on the women. Women still cannot fight for the rights which
14. Afroza Anwari, acid violence and medical care in Bangladesh: Women’s activism as Care work. 17 gender and society 305, 306 (2003).
15. Commonly termed as a taboo.
16. Sujoy Dhār, India’s Acid Attack Victim (August 20, 2013) The Global Times.
are instill in every person from their birth. In a patriarchal society woman is guided by the males and cannot take her own decisions or make her own choices. Women complexion her size is considered as the beauty of her which is why it gives much pleasure for the men to throw acids on the women in order to destroy their body and dreams. It comes from the thinking “If I can’t have you, nobody else would. Another reason may be dowry problems or other marital problems. Though taking dowry is a punishable offence, but still it is largely prevalent in many areas. It is considered as the duty of the bride’s family, and has to suffer a huge social stigma if not complied with. In India, many women have claim that they are attacked with acids due to failure to meet the monetary expectations of them in laws. The study of the newspaper reports in India, exhibits nearly 20% of the attacks are occurred between unrelated people, due to business rivalry, sales disputes, land quarrels or due to families reprisal.17.
- However, whilst self-immolation or setting a woman on fire are considered by some as upright, the transformation of these types of traditions into the recent days burning of brides over economic greed, is a perversion of the auspiciousness of Sati. Kerosene, most often used as the ignition fluid in Dowry Violence, is commonly found in kitchens in India and is cheap, legal, and accessible. In cases where Dowry Deaths are investigated, often they are classified by authorities as Dowry Accidents whereby a stove has burst or there is a kitchen accident.
- Thus, from the above discussion it can be conclude that the men resort to acid attack as a means to intimidate women and to impose their authority on her. Such types of ferocious attacks fosters his male ego and makes him feel that he is the honored maker of God and has created the male-controlled society. Females between 11 and 30 years are the most vulnerable to such attacks, in 36% of the acid violence women are attacked for refusing the marriage proposals. Therefore, the main cause that is seen to be behind acid attack is rejection for sexual advances.
17.Acid Survivors Report Bangladesh, Annual report 2009 at 15(2009).
1.3 CONSEQUENCES OR EFFECTS OF ACID VIOLENCE:
Acid has a traumatic effect on the human bod, often permanently blinding the victim. The aftermath being the inability to do many everyday tasks such as working and even mothering is rendered extremely difficult if not impossible. In Pakistan, there is a high rate of survival amongst the victims of acid attack according to their Acid survivor’s foundation. Subsequently, the victims are faced with physical effects which require many deep surgeries, as well as psychological effects, which require involvement from psychologists and counsellors at each stage of physical recovery. The victims are often left with no legal recourse, limited access to medical or psychological assistance, and have no means to support themselves18.
- PHYSICAL – Acid eats through two layers of the skin, i.e. the fat and muscle underneath, and sometimes not only eats through to the bone but even dissolve the bone. The deepness of injury totally depends on the strength of the acid and the duration of its contact with the skin. When thrown on a person’s face, acid rapidly eats into eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Eyelids and lips may burn off completely. The nose sometimes melts, closing the nostrils, and ears shrivel up. Acid can rapidly destroy the eyes, leaving the victim blind. Skin and bone on the cranium, forehead, cheeks and chin may melt. When the acid squelches or drips over the neck, chest, back, arms or legs, it burns everywhere it touches. The biggest instant jeopardy for victims is breathing failure. Inhalation of acid vapors can create breathing problems in two ways: I) by causing a poisonous reaction in the lungs. ii) By swelling the neck, which constricts the airway and strangles the victim.
Like other wounds and injuries, acid attack is unparalleled the most painful of all. When the acid is thrown on the person it not burns the skin but also melts all the layers of the flesh and bones. It may also dissolve the bones. The damage depends on the amount of acid thrown and the duration in which it is remained exposed. If it is washed or treated immediately then the intensity of burn may be lessened. When the acid id thrown on the persons face, it spreads rapidly into the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. The eye lids and lips
18.Acid violence as on www.acidviolence.org.
may burn off completely. Acid may quickly destroy the eye blinking of the victim. The nose may melt, closing the nostrils and can blind the victim. The skin everywhere on the skull, forehead, cheeks and chin dissolves. It was founded in one study that usually, 14% of the body surface area burns of the victims including the face with maximum burns (81%) of the victim, head and neck majorly after the face (67%), upper limbs by (60%), and chest (54%). Also, many of them suffered (31%) complete or partial blindness19. Thick scars which pull the skin very tight and causes disfigurement are formed when the burn from acid starts to heal. For illustration, their eyelids may no longer handy, the mouth may no longer open; and the chin becomes joined to the chest20.
- PSYCHOLOGICAL – Acid assault survivors face many mental health issues upon recovery. Acid violence victims have been reported with higher levels of anxiety, depression, due to their appearance. According to the Rosenberg Scale, the women reported lowered self-esteem and increased self-awareness, both in common and in the social range.
Psychological consequences can even be worse as compared to the physical consequences. It has deep impact not only on the victim, but also on families of the victims. A trauma controls the victim and also on the people and has deep root bearing on the masses. When the acid is thrown the victim goes through psychological trauma knowing that their skin has burnt off, and the disfigurement or disabilities with which they have to live. Some of the psychological problems which they bear are insomnia, nightmares, depression, fear of facing the world, headache, tiredness, fear of other acid attacks. Their mental state is deteriorated as they think themselves boycotted and castaway from the society. The victim’s life keeps on becoming worse as they see themselves in the mirror. It is also because in our society outer beauty is more important than the inner beauty. This consequently sheds an adverse image on her empowerment.
- SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC – Acid attacks usually leave victims handicapped in some way, rendering them dependent on others for everyday activities, such as eating and
19.Acid Violence in Uganda
20.226th report of law commission of India, proposal for the inclusion of acid attacks as specific offences in the Indian Penal Code and a law for compensation of victims of crime 7(July 2009).
running jobs. They face a lifetime of discrimination from society and they become lonely. Many acid survivors are not able to find work because of their impaired vision and they being physically handicapped, these dependencies are enlarged by this fact. As a result, divorce, abandonment by husbands is common in the society. Besides, acid survivors who are not married when attacked are almost isolated from society, successfully ruining marriage forecasts. They become so conscious and embarrassed that people will stare or laugh at them and may hesitate to leave their homes dreading an opposing reaction from the outside world. Victims who were not married are not likely to get married and those victims who have got serious debilities because of violence, like impaired vision, will not find jobs and earn a living. Discernment from other people, or debilities such as sightlessness, makes it very difficult for victims to fend for themselves and they become dependent on others for food and money.
The victims who are not married are not likely to get married as they suffer from many incapacities like loss of sight, deafness and many others and our peoples mind set is not broad enough to accept a disable person as their better half. They even do not get a job in spite of being highly qualified as they have lost the personality. Instead of helping them we people make their life more troublesome, as we sympathize them as we do not like to look at their faces for long. However, this approach needs to be changed as they are not suffering because of their wrong, but because of some ferocious animals roaming around the world freely. So far as economic consequences they are often discriminated on the basis of job offerings.
Thus, we can say that acid victims go through a phase worse than death. The physical marks on their body remind them continuously of the carnages committed on them, and a feeling of isolation and insignificance always haunts them.
ACID ATTACK IS A GENDER BASED VIOLENCE
Acid violence is a gender-based violence, a form of discrimination under the convention on the eradication of all forms of discernment against women (CEDAW)21. The committee on the eradication on all forms of discernment against women, which monitors which monitors state compliance with the treaty, describe gender-based violence as “violence that is directed against the women because she is women or that affects women inexplicably22. The CEDAW committee has added further that gender-based violence both results from and spread traditional biased attitudes that restrain women to orthodox, subordinate roles and positions23. Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia have ratified CEDAW and are thus obligated to combat all forms of discrimination against women, including acid violence.
Below we will discuss:
A.How acid violence disproportionately affects women
B.Results from discrimination
C.Perpetuates inequality and discrimination against women.
2.1.1 ACID VIOLENCE DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTS WOMEN
The majority of victims as studied and researched are women. In Bangladesh, studies
suggest that 68% to 90% of the acid burn victims are female24. Our study of newspaper stories from India shows that 72% of the reported victims are female. A slight majority
21. See CEDAW, at art 1; CEDAW committee general recommendation no- 19- violence against women.
22.CEDAW Committee General Recommendation No. 19–Violence against Women. We note that, although CEDAW recognizes gender-based violence as something that occurs only to women, it is increasingly being recognized that men can also be subject to violence because of their gender. See, e.g., JUDY A. BENJAMIN &
KHADIJA FANCY, WOMEN’S COMMISSION FOR REFUGEE WOMEN AND CHILDREN, UNICEF.
23. See CEDAW Committee General Recommendation No. 19–Violence Against Women, (remarking that
“traditional attitudes by which women are regarded as subordinate to men or as having stereotyped roles perpetuate widespread practices involving violence or coercion, such as family violence and abuse, forced marriage, dowry deaths, acid attacks and female circumcision.”) [Emphasis added].
24. See ACID SURVIVORS FOUNDATION, BANGLADESH, ANNUAL REPORT 2009; Bari & Choudhury; Zafreen et al.
of the victims are women and girls 52%25 in Cambodia. In Cambodia, where women commit acid attacks against other women which is very common – acid violence is gender based violence. The underlying gender inequality and discrimination, not the gender of the perpetrators, are the relevant factors in determining whether or not violence is considered gender based.
2.1.2 ACID VIOLENCE RESULTS FOM GENDER DISCRIMINATION AND INEQUALITY:
Although acid violence occurs in many countries but it is most prevalent in the countries mentioned above. Acid attack occurs where there is gender discrimination i.e. where one gender is treated as superior to other. Bangladesh, India and Cambodia stands very low on the Global Gender Gap Index, which measures national, economic, educational, health and political equality between men and women. In 2009, Bangladesh, India and Cambodia ranked 93rd, 114th and 104th, respectively, out of 134 countries included in the Global Gender Gap Index. A strong societal group preference for sons is another indicator of the rating of girls relative to men. In 2006, 25.6 % of ever married Indian women age 15 to 49 expressed a preference to have more sons than daughters26.
Similarly, in 2008, Bangladesh had the highest ratio of son preference. Whereas in Cambodia it was found to be moderate27. Society confines the women to her beauty based on her virginity, her size and her complexion which is the reason perpetrators often tend to destroy her beauty. One author who interviewed some suitors he noted that one of the reasons what to punish the women for being proud of her beauty. Women are mostly attacked because in a patriarchal society woman has no self-identity without a man. Mostly where the problem is with family members, the attackers’ attack the females of that family to burden them as the female would not be accepted by the society thereafter will be completely dependent on their families. India and Bangladesh shared same
25. CAMBODIAN ACID SURVIVORS CHARITY (CASC), APRIL–JUNE 2010, QUARTERLY REPORT 4 (2010).
26. 4: Fertility & Fertility Preferences, in NATIONAL FAMILY HEALTH SURVEY 2005–06: INDIA. Among ever-married Indian men ages 15 to 49, 23.6% wanted more sons than daughters, and 30.6% did not want any daughters.
27. See Jane E. Miller & Yana V. Rodgers, Mother’s Education and Children’s Nutritional Status: New Evidence from Cambodia, 26 ASIAN DEV. REV. 131, 132 (2009).
territory before 1947, so they have same cultural history. In contrast Cambodia is the state where the men population is low caused by decades of war and genocide28. Even though the pattern of such inequality differs in every country, most acid attack that are carried out is because of the discriminatory attitudes in society against women. Below we discuss the most common reasons for acid attacks and how each of them reflects gender discrimination and inequality.
2.2 INFAMOUS CASES OF INDIA, BANGLADESH AND CAMBODIA
2.2.1 SHRUTHI FROM BANGALORE, INDIA:
Shruthi was a studious girl who lately shifted to Bangalore, India. Shruthi neighbor named Rajesh was attracted towards her and for many months harassed her even after her rejection for marriage proposal. Shruthi negatively responded to Rajesh sexual advances. Shruthi told about Rajesh to her father. Her father talked to Rajesh and he further promised her father to not see her anymore. But his promises were empty. One day Shruthi angrily asked Rajesh to prevent bothering her. After that many months passed, Shruthi did not see Rajesh. After several months Rajesh reappeared while Shruthi was on the way back to take a bus home. Rajesh again proposed Shruthi few seconds after her rejection he poured acid in her face and front body. The incident happened in front of the bus stop in broad daylight but nobody helped her except the one bystander who covered her with the jacket and took her to the hospital. She remained unconscious for days and could not contact her family. She lost her vision of eyes. 32 total surgeries were made to regain what is lost.
Shruthi’s case gained much media attention being the headlines. Media shared her before and after pictures which regenerate the interest of public in acid violence, health issues, and gender discrimination violence. It helped to rally public outcry. Also, Shruthi believes that media helped to expedite her trial. The attacker was sentence to 7years of jail which was later changed by High Court to life imprisonment with 5lakh rupees fine.
28. See Melanie Walsh, REPORT ON THE STATUS OF CAMBODIA WOMEN: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, SEXUAL ASSAULT AND TRAFFICKING FOR SEXUAL EXPLOITATION 8 (2007).
ASF Asian country states that rejection of affection, marriage, or sex proposals encouraged around 17% of the attacks in the country from May 1999 to December 200929. Another study of 90 victims form January 2000 to June 2005 in Bangladesh, however, found that rejected suitors perpetrated nearly 56% of attacks studied. A study of Indian news report, from January 2002 to October 2010 uncovered that victims rejected love or marriage proposals motivated attacks in 35% of the 110 news stories giving a reason for the attack. Additionally, a report written by the leading organization in India working on acid attacks, the campaign and struggle against acid attacks on women, found that sexual harassment or assault in response to a women or girl refusing such advances or asking the violence to be stopped often precede such attacks. Acid violence targeting women because they reject marriage, love or sex proposals indicates a number of genders based discriminatory attitudes.
Thus, this reflects that a woman are possessions. Indeed, it was also reported that the attacker said that if he could not have her nobody else would30. It shows that women have no right of their own, it will only be decided by the so-called superior gender of the society that what women is supposed or ought to be like.
2.2.2 ROOPA, INDIA:
Roopa was a 14-year-old girl who married a boy of her choice without the consent of her family. After some months she was beaten, threatened and confined without food in the house by her in laws for not providing them dowry. Her in laws were wealthy enough and Roopa’s father did not felt any reason to provide more. Roopa was pregnant at the age of 15, and her baby was separated from her. She was locked in the room for many days and the in laws did not provided her food for 7 days. However, neighbors provided her food and when her in laws found out about this, they forced her to drink acid. Afterwards they left the house thinking her to be dead but she managed to escape from the house and neighbor helped her reach the hospital. The in-laws got scared if investigation reached the hospital and paid for expenses. When Roopa’s father came to meet her, they told them that she has committed suicide. After requesting the police, he
29. Acid attack survivors annual report 2009.
30. See interview of various acid attack survivors, Bangladesh 2009.
brought army to the village to rescue her daughter. Roopa is staying with her father and is undergoing treatment.
In Bangladesh, India and Cambodia, domestic violence is widespread31, and husbands perpetrate a significant portion of acid attacks against their wives. One study of acid attacks in Bangladesh reported that victims’ husbands perpetrated nearly 17% of cases studies. Another study found that acid attack occurred between spouses in 10% in Bangladesh in 2009. In India, several women claimed that their husbands attacked them with acids. In a news report in Cambodia suggests that many cases have been reported of acid attacks against a spouse and perpetrators have cited ‘hate and jealousy’ or ‘suspicion of engaging in extramarital affair’ as reasons for attacks. Women are limited to very narrow minds they are attacked just because they stand up to a man.
This underlines the discriminatory attitude of the society. In India and Bangladesh dowry is outlawed but is still highly practiced in both the countries. In Cambodia, victim is attacked when the husband files a divorce proceeding. It is different in every county but the victims are women in every case.
2.3 LAND OR BUSINESS DISPUTES, INDIA AND BANGLADESH:
In a Patriarchal society, women are considered as inferior to men. They are always guided by the males in the family, first by her father then brother then husband then son. She cannot choose or decide on her own. In this society women without a man has no identity and also is not protected. Women are treated so sensitively that in case of revenge women are attacked firstly because they are considered weak and secondly, they are the confined only to their beauty and virginity.
People in cases of land disputes, often attack women of the family and not the opponent itself. They believe to cause more harm by attacking the female that for life they would not be able to bear it.
31. Domestic or intimate partner violence, sometimes related to dowry is endemic; it is almost perceived as inherent part of women’s lot in Bangladesh.
Land disputes are one of the leading motives for attacks in Bangladesh, a country in which land is scarce and coveted. According to the ASF32, it was the reported motive of 39% of cases from May 1999 to 2009. In a study of newspaper stories from India, of the reports that identified motive, nearly 20% of the attacks were between unrelated people because of business disputes, sale disputes, or revenge between families. In contrast, reported acid attacks in Cambodia have rarely occurred over land disputes, as there has been only one reported case in which a person was attacked over a land dispute between 1985 and 200933. Business motives however has been more common in Cambodia.
Women are considered more vulnerable and that harm to her will be harm to the whole family. This underlines the notion that the women are considered as property as they are treated as burden on their family also as unmarriageable material.
2.4 WOMEN SOCIO-ECONOMIC SECURITY IN CAMBODIA
2.4.1 YEM AND SOPHAN, CAMBODIA:
This case happened in 2004, where the Yem’s abusive husband had an affair. One fine day his mistress followed him home. Her mistress left her belongings in the Yem’s house and left after Yem paid her some dollars. She did not stop, after some weeks she again arrived at her house, Yem paid her some dollar again but this time the mistress went to the market to purchase acid. She came back and poured the acid on her while she was feeding her 6weeks old baby.
This caused severe burns on bodies of both Yem and Sophan. Sophan lost her eye vision but with medical treatment she regained partial vision. However, attacker destroyed Sophan’s chance of living a normal life in Cambodia.
Due to the less men population in Cambodia, reportedly, mostly women attack in women in Cambodia34. This is due to extramarital affair of their husbands or out of jealousy and hate. They try to make their husbands leave the other women or end their affairs. According to another study conducted by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and
32. ASF refers to Acid survivors’ foundation.
33. Breaking the silence report.
34. See living in the shadows, research paper on acid attack survivors.
Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), a wife attacked her husband’s suspected mistress or second wife in nearly 30% of 44 acid violence cases reported in the media from November 1999 to November 2002. In one case, a mother ordered her 13- year-old son to throw acid on her husband’s mistress who was 8 months pregnant at the time of the attack.
One underlying cause is that the women are socially and economically dependent on the men. They attack other women to protect their economic security and social standing in a society. They are targeted because of their inferior socio-economic positions in society. Furthermore, although Illegal, polygamy has been much practiced in Cambodia35. The competition among women for marriage and economic security, and will further deepen gender discrimination and the unequal power relation between men and women.
2.5 ACID VIOLENCE PERPETUATES GENDER DISCRIMINATION AND INEQUALITY-
Acid violence not only reflects gender discrimination and inequality but also prolongs it. Society eschews survivors who have been burned. As noted above in the case, the victims are still fighting. They are burdened as if they are the attackers and not the victims. They are deeply destroyed and are unable to face the society. People do not sympathize or help the victims rather they increase their problems. Victims has to face ignorance, discrimination after the attack. They have to fight daily for their lives. They are treated as a bad omen and has to cover their faces.
It is also studied that in India and Bangladesh victims are not allowed to attend marriages or child born ceremonies as they are treated as bad omen36. It is said by people that it might destroy their marriage or the child might bear with disabilities if the victims shadow enters the occasion.
In these countries, women are treated as they have committed some immoral act. They are isolated by the society. They are rejected for the jobs. They are left confined to the
35.See OECD Social Institutions & Gender Index, Gender Equality and Social Institutions in Cambodia.
36. See interviews with acid attack survivors, statement by Cynthia Farid.
darkness of the room. There are many cases where the women family also boycotts her and she has no source to live.
Some believes this to be the fate of the victim or a result of her bad deeds in the past. Also, the questions are raised as to why only this girl has been attacked? It might be the fault of the girl. Thus, acid attack victims always face social stigma after the attacks.
Women are always considered as a property, objects of the men. They are ought to be as decided by the superior gender of the society i.e. men. They are not free to take or make decisions or live their life as per their rules. If a woman anytime chooses to make her own decisions or stand up to a man. She is punished by the males to regain their honor and superiority. It is believed that if women stand up to a man it spoils the reputation and honor of the man. So, in order to regain his own power and honor he punishes the women. Acid attack is one of the common violence against women. This is the reason why acid attacks have been gender based violence.
Acid attacks are relational acts of violence and are rarely specifically motivated by a desire to promote fear among other women. Nonetheless, individual incidents of acid attacks may make women fearful of sinning social customs that keep them in lower positions. Acid violence has the effect of signaling, not only to victims, but also to all women in a society in which such violence widely occurs, that they must not counter prevailing gender norms. Acid violence is a form of gender base violence and discrimination under international law. Thus, governments have associate obligation to exercise due diligence to forestall and adequately reply to acid attacks.
LEGISLATION IN INDIA FOR ACID ATTACKS
In India, often incidences of acid attack grab the headlines of the Indian media. Unfortunately, in India, there was no separate legislation to deal with acid attacks before the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 201337. The offence was registered under the section 320, 322, 325, 326 and 307 of the Indian Penal Code (I.P.C.).
3.1.1 SECTION 320 – GREVIOUS HURT
The following types of hurt solely are selected as grievous.
- Permanent privation of sight of either eye.
- Permanent privation of the hearing of the either ear.
- Privation of any member or joint
- Obliteration or everlasting damaging of the powers of any member or joint.
- Permanent disfiguration of head or face
- Fracture or dislocation or a bone or tooth
- Any hurt which threatens life or which leaves the victim for twenty days in major bodily pain, or unable to follow his ordinary pursuits.
3.1.2 SECTION 322 – VOLUNTARILY CAUSING GREVIOUS HURT
Whoever voluntarily causes hurt, if the hurt which intends to cause or knows himself that it is likely to cause grievous hurt, and if that is grievous hurt, is said to “voluntarily to cause grievous hurt. A person is not said to cause the hurt voluntarily if the hurt which is caused is not intentional or not known to him to cause grievous hurt. But he is said
37. Act passed by Supreme Court on the plea filed by Lakshmi an acid attack survivor.
voluntarily to cause grievous hurt, if intends or knows that it will cause grievous hurt of one type and causes another kind of grievous hurt.
3.1.3 SECTION 325 – PUNISHMENT FOR VOLUNTARILY CAUSING GRIEVOUS HURT –
Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 335(Voluntarily causing grievous hurt on provocation), voluntarily causes grievous hurt, shall be punished with seven years of imprisonment, and shall also be liable to fine. SECTION 307 – ATTEMPT TO MURDER – Whoever does any act having intention or knowledge that if he by the act caused death, he would be guilty of murder, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may range to ten years, and shall be liable to fine; and if by such act the hurt is caused to any person, the delinquent shall be liable to imprisonment for life, or to such punishment as mentioned in the law. Attempts by life offenders – When any person offending under this section is under sentence of imprisonment for life, he may, if hurt is caused, be punished with death.
Indian penal code has provided the relief to the victims of acid attack under these sections i.e. 320, 322, 325 and 326. But it’s seen that these sections don’t fulfill the gravity that is needed for the seriousness of those offences. Moreover, the term acid attack was not defined in any of the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.
The crisis with the old provisions was that The United Nations General Assembly passed the declaration on Elimination of violence against women in 1993, and India has ratified this declaration and s under an obligation to follow the same. Article 4 (f) of this declaration states that, all states together shall come up with such recommendations for the safety of the women and also to make such laws and rules to prevent them. There ought to be separate provisions for granting amends to the victims of the attack. Now under Article 253 of the Indian Constitution, the parliament has the power to impose and make laws for these international agreements. Hence Asian nation is underneath an obligation to curb the menace of acid attack. Now it is seen that the definition of grievous hurt does not contain all the aspects of acid attacks. Therefore, if the perpetrator causes only skin damage to the victim of acid attack, with no substantial damage to other organs, it would not come under the sphere of grievous hurt. Further no provisions are there if there is a loss of financial gain of the victim. Now if the offender is not penalized under grievous hurt, then it will be covered under, hurt, which in turn invites the minimal punishment of three years.
Further there was additionally a lacuna that, there was no provision for penalizing the accused for throwing acid. In respect of the above, it was felt that there was a need to formulate a real, efficacious, and specific legislation on the issue of acid attack and to cover all the loopholes that was gift within the previously existing law.
3.2 THE CRIMINAL AMENDMENT ACT 2013:
It is only in 2013, that the need to create separate provisions for the Acid violence was felt. The amendment took place with the filing of a plea by the acid attack victim named Lakshmi. Again in 2013 the attention was paid to the seriousness of the acid violence in India. Let us study the landmark case to understand the present amendments for acid attacks in India.
3.2.1 LAXMI VS. UNION OF INDIA:
Laxmi was a 16 year old school girl. She was a daughter of a cook. A 28 year old man named Guddu proposed her for marriage for which Lakshmi rejected. He tried many times to convince her but she denied. He harassed her after she rejected the proposal. He was a possessive lover so if any guy used to talk to her or see her, he used to beat him. Scared of such harassment she left the school. Laxmi stopped going to school and even stayed at home.
The attacker in order to take revenge for rejecting him decided to throw acid on Laxmi face. He further asked his brother Imran and fiend Rakhi to pour acid on the face of Laxmi. On the fateful day when Laxmi was walking down the Huma Yun road, Rakhi who was riding on Guddu’s Motorcycle threw acid on Laxmi face.
Laxmi sustained injuries on her face and chest. She was left disfigured on the road. Everybody surrounded Lakshmi but no one dared to come for help. She was screaming and burning but no one helped38. Only one kind man near the bus stop helped her and brought her to the hospital. She was in hospital for days, it was only after some days Lakshmi’s father could locate her. She was brought to the Safdarjung Hospital where she had undergone nine major operations to reduce the pain of the burn. The last operation has sent her to the ventilation for four long days. Her parents were poor so they were not able to afford her treatment. However, a benefactor helped them and offered them 2.5 lakhs for the treatment. Laxmi underwent various surgeries to get the resemblance of what she was before but nothing helped.
She dropout from the school. She was mocked and people stared at her. Not only she lost her childhood, she was rejected by the society. She was blamed that she might have done something to get the man’s wrath. She spent eight years hiding her face. But she gained courage when India exploded in the outrage against the gang rape in the bus in 2012. She filed a PIL in the Supreme Court to provide for separate provisions to deal with acid attacks as the existing provisions are insufficient. The amendments were then made in the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Indian Evidence Act.
Contentions raised by Laxmi in the PIL:
- Effective regulation of sale of acid
- Measure for the proper treatment, after care and rehabilitation of the victims
- Provisions for compensation paid to the victims
SUBMISSIONS IN THE COURT AND JUDGMENT GIVEN BY THE COURT:
The States and UTs will take a solemn note of the instructions of the Supreme Court with respect to the treatment and payment of compensation to acid attack victims and to implement these directions through the issue of requisite notifications.
The private hospitals will also listed under the board to comply and the States/UTs will use essential. No hospital/clinic ought to refuse treatment citing lack of specialized facilities.
38. Stated by Lakshmi in her interview.
First-aid must be provided to the victim and after maintenance, the patient could be shifted to a specialized facility for further treatment, wherever required.
Stringent actions may be taken against the hospitals if in any case they refuse to give treatment to the victims of acid attack and other crimes in contravention of the Section 357C of the Criminal procedure code, 1973.
Although it is not made clear in the meeting held on 14.03.2015, what we understand by this is that not only free medical treatment is provided to the victim of acid attack however conjointly convenience of medicines, bed and food in the concerned hospital.
The court, therefore, issued a direction that the State Governments/Union Territories should extremely deal with the matter with their own hands with all the private hospitals in their Territory to the upshot that the private hospitals should not decline treatment to victims of acid attack and that complete treatment should be provided to such victims including all medicines, food, bedding and reconstructive surgeries.
It also issued a direction that the hospital, where the victim of an acid attack is first treated, should give a certificate that the individual is a victim of an acid attack. This certificate may be used by the victim for treatment and having surgeries or any other order that the victim may be permitted to with the State Government or the Union Territory, as would be provided.
In regard of any particular complaint against any private hospital or government hospital, the acid attack victim will, of course, be at liberty to take further action.
With regard to the banning of sale of acid across the counter, court directed the Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to deal with the matter with the State Governments to ensure that within the period of three months an appropriate notification to this effect is issued. It seems that some States/Union Territories have already issued such a notification, but, in our opinion, all States and Union Territories should issue such a notification at the earliest.
The final issue is with relation to the fitting up of a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. In the meeting held on 14.03.2015, the unanimous view was that since the District Legal Services Authority is already established in each district and is involved in providing appropriate assistance about acid attack victims, perhaps it may not be necessary to set up a separate Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. In other words, a multiplicity of authorities need not be created.
Further, where the compensation is claimed by the victim, the matter will be dealt by the District Legal Services Authority, which will have a District Judge and other person which the district judge thinks helpful for the assistance, particularly the District Magistrate, the Superintendent of Police and the Civil Specialist or the Main Medical Officer of that District or their contender. This body will work as the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board for all purposes.
A copy of this order be sent to learned counsel appearing for the Secretary in the Department of Home Affairs and the Administrator in the Ministry of Health and Family Wellbeing for onward diffusion and agreement to the Chief Secretary or their counterparts in all the Territories.
The Chief Secretary will ensure that the order is sent to all the District Magistrates and due advertising is given to the instruction of this Court. A copy of this order should also be sent to the Member Secretary of NALSA for onward communication and obedience to the Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority in all the Territories. The Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority will certify that it is advanced to the Member Secretary of each District Legal Services Authority who will confirm that due P.R. is given to the directions of this Court.
The instrument petition is disposed of within the above terms.
3.3 AMENDMENT OF 2013 ADDED SEPARATE PROVISIONS TO DEAL WITH ACID VIOLENCE:
3.3.1 SECTION 326A – Any person who causes eternal or partial injury or irregularity to, or scalds or mutilates or defaces or incapacitates, any part or parts of the body of a person or causes serious hurt by pouring acid on or by fleeing acid to the person, or by any other means cause injury or hurt to the person with the intention and knowledge to do so shall be liable for the imprisonment for a term which shall not be fewer than ten years but which may lead to imprisonment for life, and with fine. Provided that such fine shall be justifiable to fulfill the medical expenses of the treatment of the victim. Also, any fine charged or paid shall be given to the victim39.
3.3.2 SECTION 326B – Whoever throws or attempts to throw acid on any person or makes an attempt to pour acid on any person, or attempts to use other means, with the knowledge of causing everlasting or partial harm or irregularity or burns or defacement or mutilation or incapacity or grievous hurt to that person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not as much of than five years but which may prolong to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine40.
3.4 COMPENSATION FOR ACID ATTACKS:
SECTION 357 B has been newly inserted in Criminal procedure Code which reads as: The State Government shall pay compensation under section 357A which should be in accumulation to the fine paid to the victim under section 326A or section 376D of the Indian Penal Code.
3.4.1 FREE MEDICAL TREATMENT: Section 357C has been inserted further which provides as: “All hospitals, public or private, whether owned by the Central or the State Government, local bodies or any other person, shall immediately, provide the first-aid or medical treatment which is free, to the victims of the felonies covered under section
39.Text taken from Indian Penal Code.
40.Text taken from Indian Penal Code.
326A, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D or section 376E of the Indian Penal Code and shall directly inform the police of such incident.”
Thus, in India presently the acid attack cases are dealt under these sections.
Acid Violence Cases in India
4.1.1 HASEENA HUSSAIN-
This was another landmark case41 as in this case first time the victim was compensated with the huge amount. In this case a 19 year old girl was brutally attacked by her employer for the denial of love advances. Her employer threw 1.5 litters of acid on Haseena. The acid melted her face, fused her shoulder and neck, and burnt a hole in her head, merged her fingers and blinded her for life. She was threatened about the dire consequences when she denied his sexual advances and started working elsewhere. In this case the victim was compensated up to 3, 00,000 and the attacker is convicted for life imprisonment. Haseena is blinded in both the eyes despite corneal implants and has received 18 major operations.
4.1.2 SONALI MUKHERJEE-
A girl of 17 years old whose motive was to earn to support her family. In 2003, she rejected the guy and unfriended him. The attacker with his two other friends decided to punish her and entered Sonali’s house in the night when she slept. They threw Tezaab (used for cleaning toilets) on her. She shouted and struggled with pain. She has undergone 22 operations and still 9 operations are left. Government did not provided any help to her. Her mother went into depression, her grandfather died because of heart attack. She got multiple injuries and her face is disfigured42. The attackers were sentenced to nine-year imprisonment but were released on appeal filed to the High Court43.
41. State of Karnataka by Jalahali police station v. Joseph Rodrigues s/o V.Z. Rodrigues (decided in the honorable high court of Kerala)
42.A beautiful life melted away in an acid attack, Punjab news.
43.Desperate plea of acid attack victim who was left blind and deaf by the attackers.
4.1.3 PREETI RATHI-
A 23 year old girl, a lieutenant in Indian Navy had come to Mumbai for the new job. Her neighbor named Ankur Panwar followed her to take revenge as he was jealous of her success and also, she dared to reject his marriage proposal. He tapped her on her shoulder and then poured the acid on her face. It destroyed her kidneys and eyes. It’s damaged various organs of her body she was kept in hospital for a month where due to multiple organ failure she lost her life. The attacker is convicted for life imprisonment.
Acid attack is worse than rape as in rape the person can hide their identity and can start a new life in different country but in acid attack the victim has to move around the world with destroyed face44. Their destroyed body cannot be hidden by any way. By this statement we cannot say that rape is any lesser both are heinous offences and need to be stopped immediately.
In the above cases we have seen that the women have always been the target and reason is also the same the insecurity of men. The reason that they cannot see women moving forward or standing against them. Though the law deals with the acid violence, there is a need for effective legislations to combat the acid violence against women.
44. Stated by the eminent judge in the Preeti Rathi acid attack case.
Chapter – 5
Acid Violence in other Western Countries
Every country in this world has witnessed the brutal Acid Attacks. As discussed earlier, Acid violence is not only present in India but is prevalent in other countries too. It is common among women only in every country. Though the reasons for the attacks are different in the countries but the victim is same i.e. women.
Let us study the acid attacks in various countries:
Acid attacks are very common in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has highest reported acid assault in the world45. Like in India, the acid attack victims are mainly women. In Bangladesh also, women are considered as inferior to men. They cannot make their decisions or stand up to a man.
If they reject man proposals they are liable for the punishments in order to restore man’s respect. Reasons for acid violence in Bangladesh have been same as India i.e. rejection for marriage, sexual advances. It has also been read that the violence has been spread between men for matters involving money and land disputes.
Acid attack in Bangladesh have been a growing phenomenon. Many efforts have been taken by the government to combat the acid violence, Bangladesh government has enacted various legislations in the year 2002. They are Acid Crime Control Act (ACCA) and Acid Control Act (ACA). Unlike India Bangladesh provides for two different acts to deal with acid violence. The former deals with the penalty and special court procedures for acid attack cases. The ACA allows the court for the death penalty. The level of punishment depends on the parts of the body affected. If the major parts of the victims body is affects like eyes, ears, chest, or any sexual organs is damaged, the attacker faces death penalty or life imprisonment with the fine of 50,00046. It also provides for
45. Cases of chemical assault worldwide, literature review.
46. Section 5b of ACCA.
punishment in case of attempt to throw acid. The act also provides for the punishment for illegal selling of acids with imprisonment of 3 to 10 years and fine up to 50,000. Despite the separate laws the implementation has always been a challenge in Bangladesh.
5.1.1 CASE OF BABLI AKHTAR
This case was the most heinous of all the cases. A very saddening part is that also today the female child is not accepted by the society. Even today birth of a girl child is treated as a bad omen. In this case, a girl only seven months old was attacked. Her father poured acid on her mouth and on different parts of her body for five days. He was so ashamed of her sex that he intentionally tried to kill her in one of most brutal and cruel ways. Her mother lodged a complaint against the perpetrator, to date he has not been arrested. Babli is studying in the school she had major operations. She has difficulty in eating and talking.
Bangladesh reports the highest in all over world. There have been lots of reported cases before 2002. The violence still exists and the cases after 2002 have happened but the rates have been decreased.
Cambodia is also one the country where acid violence is quiet often. In Cambodia as stated earlier in chapter 2, due to wars and grenade the men population of that are is low. Due to which women attacks each other out of jealousy and insecurity. Women attacks the other women in case of his husband having affair or the mistress attacks the wife as seen in the case of Yem and Sophan47.
According to the information collected by the Canadian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC) on people treated in hospitals for acid attack, there have been 271 acid violence victims between years 1985 to 2010. The number have been increased constantly. The royal government of Cambodia has taken some positive steps to combat the acid violence. The Cambodian government amended their law in 2011 which incorporated penalties and death for the accused that disable the victim’s life. In case if the victim is dies because
47.Supra chapter 2 Cambodia explanation of gender discrimination.
of the attack the perpetrator is awarded a life imprisonment. Acid law also provides that unless a person has a legal identity or a license to use the acid, they shall not be allowed to use sell or distribute the acids48. It imposes penalty for those using or dealing in acids without the license. It also creates the responsibility on the concerned authority to immediately bring victim to the hospital and provide for free treatment49. But as in Bangladesh the implementation of laws has been a challenge in Cambodia too. The laws have not been properly used in the courts. It was only in 2013 that for the very first time in the municipal court the perpetrator was sentenced under the new law50.
5.2.1 CASE OF TAT MARINA-
This is another case in Cambodia which created the havoc. Also, after this case the number of attacks in Cambodia were increased. In this case a 16 year old karaoke star was attacked by more than 1litre of acid. She was brutally attacked by the perpetrators for her success. She was always harassed and criticized for marrying an older man. She was said to have married that man for his wealth as she herself was from a poor family. This case clearly points out the traditional Cambodian culture, myths, beliefs and attitudes. Even after 11 years the perpetrators were not arrested and have not been still. Also, after the case of Tat Marina there was a sudden increase in number of attacks. According to the data collected by some local NGO eight attacks happened during the weeks after the Tat Marina’s attack.
Tat Marina is now living abroad and had many major operations. There is no chance of her ever coming back to Cambodia. Many of her family members also had to leave Cambodia and are now in exile. In 2009, the movie named Finding Face was released which depicts the story of Tat Marina.
48.Article 5 and 8 of Acid Law.
49.Article 10 and 11 of Acid Law.
50.Leing Sarith (2013 January 29).
It is a misconception that Bangladesh is the only country with highest rates of acid attacks. Pakistan is the nest highest country with approximately same rates. As in India and Bangladesh the reasons for the attacks are the same. Women has been treated poorly in every country.
They are always treated and believed to be inferior to man. They believe that women are made to satisfy men and has no personal identity in the society without a man.
Pakistan is the country where women are not even allowed to come out without their Burka. If they are seen without the Burka, they are said to be impure. Women in Pakistan are not even allowed to have education, it is believed that they will be spoiled and will forget their customs if they are made to study. Also, women have to get married so there is no need to spend on her.
It is very saddening that even today such thoughts prevail. Women in Pakistan are mainly attacked for pursuing education. Also, in Pakistan if the women is raped she is treated as a bad luck and often becomes the target of acid violence.
In 2011, Pakistan government made amendments to the existing laws that criminalized such attacks, stipulating a minimum sentence of 14 years in prison, a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life and a fine exceeding to 1 million. After the suicide of acid attack victim, pressure mounted on the government to introduce more stringent laws. The Naila Farhat case which gained massive publicity and the wrongdoer was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and was ordered to pay a huge sum of 1.2 million rupees as damages. Later in 2012 Acid throwing and burn Crime Bill was introduced in the Pakistani Parliament.
The Acid Throwing and Burn Crime Bill, 2012 enlarges upon the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention (Amendment) Act, 2010. It provided a proper and specific definition for acid attack and also provided for investigation, protection of witnesses as well as the recognition of medical, legal and financial support for victims and their dependents. The Act also criminalizes an attempt to commit acid violence and imposes an obligation on officers for proper investigation of the attack. To promote effective implementation of law, the act provides the provision for establishment of Acid and Burn Crime Monitoring Board and described its role and responsibilities
5.3.1 CASE OF NUSRAT FROM MUZAFFARGARH IN PAKISTAN-
Nusrat was a strong woman who always supported the truth. She was living happily with her husband and her children. It all started when her brother refused to marry her sister in law which was decided before the marriage of Nusrat. It was decided that Nusrat is getting married and later on her brother has to marry their daughter. After getting older, Nusrat’s brother refused to marry and Nusrat helped her brother also arranged the marriage with the girl he wanted to be with.
Later, on one morning her husband and she was in the room when her husband threw acid on her. It was seconds after her clothes fell off she felt fire on her body. The smell told her it was an acid and she ran out of the room where her brother in law threw acid on her face. She screamed so much that all the people gathered to which they told that she herself threw acid on her. People took her to the hospitals and she got all the media coverage. Her children were taught that their mother has turned into a monster but in one of the court proceedings her children came running to her and supported her.
She in order to take revenge decided to take off the charges against her husband. Her husband was so scared that he actually divorced her. She stays with her family now. People used to tell her that she will die soon.
Acid violence in Uganda affects all the social strata of society from the poorest to the most rich and influential. Section 216(g) of Ugandan Penal Code penalizes the perpetrator with life imprisonment. If the attack is made with malice and it leads to the death of the victim, then it is considered as murder under Section 188 and the culprit is awarded with a death sentence under Section 204 of the Ugandan Penal Code. An offence as grave as acid attack is non- bail able in nature but the culprits are still released on bail. Though there are effective laws present in the country against such violence but they are not implemented in an apt manner which is the reason why such attacks still occur in large number in the country.
There is no explicit law in Jamaica to deal with acid violence in spite of the fact that it has the largest number of absolute acid attack victims. The only piece of legislation which punishes such violence is Offences against the Person Act which awards life imprisonment to the convict in case of causing grievous injury to the victim.
Under Nepal’s legal system, there is no precise punitive provision for acid violence. Under the present laws, perpetrator is penalized under provision of hurt and culpable homicide of Muluki Ain. Number 14 of the chapter Hurt, endows with punishment for causing hurt to the body by burning substance like acid. When no grave injury is caused to the person, perpetrator is awarded with two months of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 500. A fine of a meagre sum of Rs 2,000 is imposed on burning nose or eyes of a person. In addition to this, no medical and economic assistance is provided to the victims by the government. The present law on acid violence fails to provide severe punishment to the culprits and is thus, ineffective to curb such attacks.
Acid attacks are intentional attacks of violence. Perpetrators throw, pour, and spray hydrochloric, nitric, sulfuric acid on the faces and bodies of the victims. Acid violence have shattering health consequences for victims. Short term effects include major pain and long-term effects can include blindness and loss of facial features. Acid law is prohibited under international law. It is a gender-based violence which only targets women. International law recognizes it as a discrimination against women and perpetuates it.
In India and Bangladesh women are often attacked by men for refusing the proposals for marriage, sex, or love. In Cambodia, perpetrators are mostly women attacking other women as the population of men in that country is low because of wars and grenade. They attack each other for men. In all three countries victims often face discrimination and marginalization in the society.
Acid attack is worse than any form of violence against women. It leaves her burning for her entire life. Some survivors though start living again, but many of them are living dead souls. Acid violence leaves them craving for the beauty, reputation and life they had before. They are treated as disable person and are no longer able to live a normal life.
Acid attack survivors not only suffer with their pain that the perpetrator put them into but also has to suffer the taunts of the society. Society creates more problem for the victim. They blame victim for their sufferings and not the attacker. For them if any women have suffered is because of her own mistakes. Like in rape, people always say it is the fault of the women as she was wearing short clothes. So, in acid attack they say women might have done something to deserve this, or it is the fate of her karma.
Victims are treated as bad omen. They are not allowed to attend any function as it is believed that her shadow would bring bad luck to the family. They are always unheeded.
They are ignored by the government too. They are left dependent on their families after the attack. Some are abandoned by their families too. There is no source of living for them. They are not offered jobs as people would not be able to look at their faces, they will sympathize them.
Acid violence has such hazardous results, that the government must take stringent actions to combat this kind of violence. Acid attacks are most common in Cambodia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India where the acid is cheap and easily available. One important way is to limit its easy availability to people. Bangladesh has adopted a new law that requires a license to use acid. Even though this law has not been fully or effectively implemented the rates of attacks in Bangladesh have been decreased each year since 2002. Cambodia have considered to apply same law but no such proposals have yet been made. Acid attacks are high both in Cambodia and India.
Governments much end the widespread liberty perpetrators enjoy by implementing the laws that provide for perpetrators prosecution and punishment. Bangladesh has enacted criminal legislations improving criminal procedures in acid attack cases and heightening criminal penalties. However, India and Cambodia have not adopted laws that provide for adequate punishments. In all three countries victims face difficulties in obtaining the require healthcare and justice. Acid attacker often gets bail and roam freely.
Women have always been subject to violence for some or the other reason. Not only acid violence but different kinds of violence by men. All types of violence are separately dealt with under the law but is always insufficient to women sufferings. As women have always been thought as inferior to men. They cannot stand up to him and if she does so she is liable for the punishment in order to restore the man’s respect in the society. Men always try to confine the women in the walls. They cannot see them growing. It always taught to women that you’re strong so don’t raise your voice against a man. Whatever he is doing let him he is a man. Rather than teaching man how to respect the women our society shuts the women.
Many laws have been created to combat the violence against the women but all laws are waste if they are not properly implemented. In India, there were no provisions for acid violence earlier to 2013, it was only after 2013 that the criminal amendment act was passed to separately deal with acid violence. It provided for punishment and also for providing medical aid to the victim. But framing laws is not enough unless it is properly implemented. In India courts are buried under so many cases so it takes years for a trial to take place. The attacker roams freely. Victim has to go through many courts but it take a lot of time to reach or get justice. The government should create a separate body to deal with such cases and give speedy trials and justice.
It is not only in India that the women are suffering it is everywhere even in the develop countries, women are not accepted equal by men. They are always treated as inferior and it is very difficult for men to obey women. So not only the creation of new laws would help but the implementation of same would be helpful.
AUTHORED BY: Himanshi Gulati
AMITY LAW SCHOOL