In what can be termed as shocking, the Delhi Commission of Women shared its research findings yesterday and stated that acid is being sold openly across Delhi, despite the Supreme Court categorically having banned over the counter retail sale of the substance since 2013. This disclosure comes after the women’s body had conducted an investigation during which the commission staffers went to 30 shops in 2 days and were able to procure acid from 23 shops.
Acid throwing, also called an acid attack, is a form of violent assault defined as the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another “with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill.” Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The long term consequences of these attacks may include blindness, as well as permanent scarring of the face and body, along with far-reaching social, psychological, and economic difficulties. The reasons for this kind of attack are many- conflicts in intimate relationships, sexual rejection, gang wars, property wars and may have political and religious motives.
Acid Attacks are common across the world, but the cases are mostly concentrated in the South Asian region. Since the 1990s, Bangladesh has been reporting the highest number of attacks and highest incidence rates for women, with 3,512 Bangladeshi people acid attacked between 1999 and 2013. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data from 2014, Delhi, with 20 incidences of acid attacks figures as the third state with highest cases after West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
There are several laws around the issue, and several compensation schemes available for acid attack victims. Section 326 A in the Indian Penal Code lays down the punishment for acid throwing, and states that the minimum punishment is 10 years imprisonment, which can extend up to life imprisonment with fine. A separate law to punish offenders in such cases was passed along with amendment of law on sexual offences. Such a legislation in line with the laws in other countries like Bangladesh was demanded by various sections of the society for a long time. In 2013, the Supreme Court directed all private hospitals to provide immediate and free treatment to all acid attack victims, and to issue a certificate endorsing them as acid attack victims, so that they can claim benefits in the future.
While many organizations like Acid Survivors Foundation India (AFSI) and Stop Acid Attacks work for the prevention of this heinous crime, and focus on rehabilitation of survivors, stringent laws revolving around sale and purchase of acid must be reinforced, and heavy penalties must be imposed for any deviation from these. Similarly, a stronger system of counselling and rehabilitating survivors and their families must be put into place, so as to enable better quality of living. It is unfortunate that in our society, for every crime against women, it is the women who are ostracized and not the perpetrators of the crime. This attitude must change. We all must bring about this change.
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