“I am not a victim, I am a survivor. The man who attacked me will cover his face, I won’t.”
– Laxmi Agarwal, an Indian acid attack survivor, a campaigner for rights of acid attack victims and a TV host.
In many regions in India acid violence and attacks have occurred. Women are the first victims. The acid attack girl in India is a common crime which is happening; it could be due to land or property disputes, family arguments, and dowry and for marriage reasons. Acid which is a chemical substance with strong and immediate action can permanently disfigure a person. Strong acids can even cause immediate death. In most cases acid attacks are purposive attacks that target a person and cause morphological, psychological and social scaring. In many developing countries the acid weapon can easily be purchased as it is a cleaning agent.
In India, the first acid attack occurred in the year 1982. Recently many countries have stressed for more legislation to address the acid attack incidents. This area was still unexplored by researchers and there were many concerns regarding the same. It was contended by those working for these victims that the Criminal law relating to grievous hurts in Sections 320, 322, 325 and 326 of the Indian Penal Code (I.P.C) was insufficient to deal with the phenomenon of acid attacks, hence Acid Attack was introduced as a separate offence under the Indian Penal Code through Criminal (Amendment) Act, 2013 by enacting two new sections namely section 326A and section 325B, which where;
Section 326A lays down the punishment for acid throwing. The minimum punishment is 10 years imprisonment. It can extend up to life imprisonment with fine.
Section 326 B lays down the punishment for attempted acid throwing. The minimum punishment is 5 years imprisonment. It can extend up to 7 years imprisonment with fine.
The medical effects of acid attacks are extensive. As a majority of acid attacks which happen with acid attack girl in India are aimed at the face, several articles thoroughly reviewed the medical implications for these victims. The severity of the damage depends on the concentration of the acid and the time before the acid is thoroughly washed off with water or neutralized with a neutralizing agent. The acid can rapidly eat away skin, the layer of fat beneath the skin, and in some cases even the underlying bone. Eyelids and lips may be completely destroyed and the nose and ears severely damaged.
Some of the well-known effects of acid are as under;
● Acids are corrosive substances that will cause visible necrosis (death) of human skin tissue and will even corrode a metal in higher concentration.
● They can cause poisoning, burning and also can cause serious injury from exposure to strong acids. Commonly available acids include Sulphuric acid, Hydrochloric acid Hydrofluoric acid, Nitric acid etc. Acids are used in laboratories and factories/industries.
● In an acid attack the skin is the main organ of contact. The effects of acid on the skin may include redness, and burns. In severe cases, it could lead to shock and death. Some other effects include permanent hair loss and scarring. If inhaled in large quantities it can also lead to pulmonary disorders.
● In addition to these above-mentioned medical effects, acid attack victims face the possibility of sepsis, kidney failure, skin de-pigmentation, and even death.
Acid assault survivors face many mental health issues upon recovery. Additionally, acid attack girl in India and female victims who are unfortunately in it are reported with lowered self-esteem according to the Rosenberg scale and increased self-consciousness, both in general and in the social sphere. Victims suffer severe psychological symptoms for years, if not forever, because they are reminded every day of their physical scars. The feeling of lack of hope and worth may never leave them.
Social and Economic
In addition to medical and psychological effects, many social implications exist for acid survivors, especially women. For example, such acid attack girl in India usually leave victims handicapped in some way, rendering them dependent on either their spouse or family for everyday activities, such as eating and running errands.
These dependencies are increased by the fact that many acid survivors are not able to find suitable work, due to impaired vision and physical handicap. This negatively impacts their economic viability, causing hardships on the families/spouses that care for them.
Acid attacks have been documented in various different parts of the world including Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Italy, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uganda, UK, USA, and Vietnam. However, the number of incidents of acid attack girl in India, Pakistan, Cambodia and Uganda are much higher and are on the rise.
It can be understood that Acid attack is a serious human catastrophe, which has undoubtedly either taken innocent lives or the after effects has resulted in creating a “living hell” for the victims of such attacks with recurrent medical procedures and treatments, sociological barriers and psychological elements while dealing with such disastrous, grievous and inhuman act.
Hence, Legislation is the first step, but women’s rights activists believe that societal change is what’s needed to put an end to acid attack girl in India.
Apart from the above, what needs to be done is that the sale of Acid should be banned except for commercial and scientific purposes. Further, the distribution of acid must be strictly regulated i.e. it should not be available over the counter and the particulars of purchasers of acid must be recorded. Meanwhile, in neighboring Bangladesh there is evidence that stricter laws lead to fewer attacks. There, those charged with committing an acid attack are eligible for the death penalty, and the sale of acids is strictly regulated.
However, unlike Bangladesh, India’s incidence rate of chemical assault has been increasing in the past decade. If India manages to regulate the sale of acids, it may see a drop in attacks similar to Bangladesh, but the greater struggle will be breaking down the cultural norms that encourage these attacks.