ACID VIOLENCE KNOWS NO GENDER
By Mehar Chowdhry and Pauline Ruby(03/07/2020 18:00 IST)
Acid attacks are also known as acid throwing. It is a vitriol attack, and it is a form of violent assault defined as the act of throwing acid or similarly corrosive substance onto the body or mainly face of the victim with the intention to mutilate, torture or kill. The first recorded acid attacks, In India was in 1982. India has seen about 1,500 attacks in the past 5 years. According to Section 326 A in the Indian Penal Code lays down the punishment for acid attacks. The minimum punishment is 10 years' of imprisonment. It 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. On the other hand the victim suffers the consequences for a life time.
Acid attack is possibly the worst infliction on another human - leading to complete debilitation, loss of income and opportunity, and even social seizure- and it can happen to anyone, at any time. The means to this evil remain quite accessible to most and the causes provoking such malice can be unimaginably trivial. Few seconds to splash, and another few seconds to realise the pain and burning and a life long suffering. This not only disfigures your faces but it smashes your spirit to live again, to trust humanity again, it finishes your hopes to live. It takes a great deal of courage to step up and narrate your dreadful experience to the audience. No matter how much we try to explain what they are going through we will keep failing at that. Perpetrator's aim is not to kill the victim but to leave them in a pathetic condition. Injuries on the body heal and leave scars not only on the body but also physically and psychologically the whole personality of the survivor affected.
As a result of acid attack, the victims are not able to work due to their deformities and it is impossible for them to survive in the society. In some cases their own family abandons them which leads to emotional breakdown of the victim. The medical effects of acid attack are extensive.
Women often face acid violence because of gender stereotypes and discrimination based on sex. We all are known to the story of Laxmi Aggarwal through the film “Chhapak”. How she was a victim of the attack and how she became a survivor. But what not she went through her struggle?
Mostly seen as a crime against women, a significant and growing number of acid attack victims in India are men. What makes a male acid attack victim slightly unusual is not the jaunty hat on his head nor even the scars on his face caused by an acid attack. What makes him unusual is his gender. Statistics on the number of acid attacks in India, let alone their gender break-up, are hard to come by. Until the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, acid attacks were clubbed under a general section of offences that caused “grievous harm". This is a gross under-^pfear of society. Moreover, it does not take into account the fact that men are victims too. According to a recent study, Men constitute 35% of the total number of all victims. According to Alok Dixit, a journalist who set up the campaign, Stop Acid Attacks in March 2013, 386 people were attacked with acid between 1 January 2013 and December 2014. Of these, 133 were men, he says. Enmity and property disputes are the main reasons why men are attacked, says Dixit. “Women are most often attacked by men they have rejected and are now seeking vengeance. With men, it tends to be jealousy or rivalry. The reasons are very different. But the trauma and the pain both suffer is the same," he says.
A teenage boy has been left scarred for life after a girl threw acid in his face because he rejected her. Mahmudul Hasan Maruf, 17 from Dhaka, Bangladesh, was pictured laying on a hospital bed with terrible injuries as a result of the attack. According to reports, the acid was thrown in his face by a 16-year-old girl whose romantic advances he had turned down. She had apparently been chasing after Mahamdul for a number of months despite his rejections. After confronting the boy, she then threw the acid in his face. The girl and her mother were both reportedly arrested the next day.
Acid is a cheap and lethal weapon, easily available despite a 2013 Supreme Court order that places restrictions on its sale. An attacker can approach a victim on foot or on a motorcycle with what seems like a water bottle in hand. Most victims don’t initially realize that they have been doused with acid and report feeling something cold and wet, before the excruciating pain sets in. Perhaps one of the most glaring differences between male and female acid attack survivors lies in how they are viewed by the society. In patriarchal societies where a woman is judged by the way she looks, an acid attack leaves her bereft of almost all social support. Male victims, still manage to marry and plan families. But to see both the sides of a coin, when on one hand when a female victim gets the sympathy from the society, male victims are asked to not grief over their pain and moreover are expected to start a new life and particularly be the bread-earner again.
For both men and women survivors of acid violence, life becomes a messy tangle of medical treatment, legal cases and just struggling to survive. Victims battle physical and emotional trauma, and are often marginalized from society. Acid knows no gender, nor caste, nor religion. But to not recognize that men are victims too is to do injustice to the hundreds who suffer and struggle to survive.