Acid attacks in India have been on the rise and the situation only seems to be getting worse. How do acids break things down? Acid dissolves the glue that practically holds the skin together, by dissolving the protective stratum corneum layer.
We need to do some intense research and work on how to stop acid attacks in India, and protect young women and girls from the unbearable pain that an acid attack causes.
The Sad Reality Of An Acid Attack In India
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What is the punishment for an acid attack in India? It has only recently been made more stringent, involving imprisonment for up to 10 years that can be extended to a lifetime. However, this has not stopped Indians from committing this cruel crime.
Many sources have reported some facts about acid attacks in India. According to the National Crime Bureau, between 2014 to 2018, India saw 1,483 victims of acid attacks, with states like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Bengal reporting the highest number of cases. Out of the 523 cases that went for trial, only 19 were convicted.
Clearly, the acid attack punishment in India is not proving to be a deterrent. But why do men resort to such heinous acts of crime in the first place?
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When men turn to violence because of rejection
A soul-wrenching loud scream in a busy street in broad daylight disrupts the normal routine of the populace. The young girl was screaming lying down on the ground, fumes coming off her body. Each cell of skin shrinking painfully, each organ melting – eyes, ear, nose, and creating a hole in the head.
This agony is inferior to the one she would encounter for the rest of her life while looking at her disfigured self. All this just because a lunatic couldn’t accept a NO. A man’s ego ruined an innocent girl’s life.
The struggling single woman who fears an attack every day
Millions of women across the globe live with this fear that compounds the struggles of their everyday lives. With a high survival rate among victims, acid attacks are rarely carried out with murder in mind.
I met Savita during one of my workshops on rape awareness. Savita is a hardworking divorced woman, sole support for her daughter and ailing mother. Her tolerance for her husband’s abuse and assault ran out when he advanced toward their daughter. She had to stand up for her daughter now.
Her best option was to live with her mother. There she started working in 7 houses a day so that the three of them can have a decent meal at night in their 10×6 room.
Every morning she patches up her leftover courage from the previous day before she leaves to face the world outside those closed doors of her room. Her decision to separate from her husband didn’t go down well with the neighbors, for their clichéd mindset said that a husband has the right to do anything. Yet because she grew up there, she knew how to handle them.
But she was worried about the bunch of jobless goons sitting under the tree around the corner, who stare, laugh, whistle and pass lewd comments about her blouse, her modesty when she crosses that under-construction building.
She was terrified by those devious men who sit at the pan center across the entry door of the building and try to scan her body – every inch of it – as she passes by them.
She left an abusive marriage, only to face no peace
At first, she tried to ignore the comments and move on, but it didn’t work. When she tried to retaliate and confront these men, they crowded her and one of them grabbed her hand and threatened to pour acid over her if she didn’t behave properly with them.
This scared her so much that now she keeps a small knife with her hidden under the pallu of her saree that she tucks in and covers every inch of her body with. She knows that the metal of the knife would melt like her bones once the acid touches her skin, but that is the sole bastion of her survival.
She knew all about the grim reality of an acid attack in India, and the pain of acid attack victims before and after the incident takes place. She never knew how to deal with the power struggle that comes with being a woman. She never wishes this pain, even on her worst enemy.
Every day she lives a little, dies more. But every night, when her daughter with bright eyes and a big smile tugs the end of her saree waiting to hear a new story before they retire to sleep, the patchwork begins again. The fear of acid can wait till tomorrow.
The dictionary says acid is a solution with a pH below 7, sour in taste and makes litmus paper red. But the daunting truth is that it takes just 30 seconds for the acid to burn the skin to a very deep level. It has enough power to dissolve the bones!
It causes immediate disfigurement (that needs multiple surgeries), pain and burns to the body. Almost always, the victim has to live with a disfigured face because the burns are too severe to treat.
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What To Do If You Are The Victim Of An Acid Attack
Painful as it may be, you need to keep calm and act swiftly, every second that you waste will cause irreparable damage. You need to keep the burnt area under running water and seek medical help as soon as possible.
- Stand under slow running water or douse the survivor with water for half an hour.
- If it gets in the eyes, keep your eyes open while water is allowed to pour into the eyes so as to remove every drop of acid.
- Under running water, remove clothing, shoes, jewellery, watch and any other contaminated item touching the skin.
- Keep contaminated clothing, shoes and all other items in a plastic bag for evidence.
- Keep water running till help arrives.
What NOT To Do If You Are The Victim Of An Acid Attack
Everybody has an opinion, but in reality nobody really knows what to do. Don’t listen to amateurs and their ‘homemade remedies’, instead follow these tips:
- Do not soak the burn in water.
- Do not use butter, grease, oils or ointments if it is a severe burn.
- Usage of ice is a strict no-no, as it may worsen the condition.
- Do not use a fluffy cloth, like a towel or blanket.
- Don’t delay calling for medical help.
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Indian laws that deal with acid attacks
The accused in acid attacks can be prosecuted under section 326A in case of grievous injury and 326B in cases of relatively lesser injuries to victims. The minimum punishment under 326A is 10 years, while the maximum is life imprisonment; under 326B, the minimum punishment is five years imprisonment, which can extend up to 7 years.
The compensation payable by the State Government under Section 357A shall be in addition to the payment of the fine to the victim under section 326A of the Indian Penal Code.
Acid attack is possibly the worst among the crimes related to violence, as it not just physically but psychologically crushes the survivor. Even with stringent laws on acid attack punishment in India, acid remains the most accessible weapon for scorned or rejected lovers.
Most of the violent crimes against women have their base in the deep underlying culture of misogyny and the patriarchal system of society. In India, the most common acid attacks involve women, especially teenage girls (under 18) with the reason being the rejection of marriage or sexual advances or suspicion of cheating (one man poured acid into his wife’s because he suspected her of infidelity).
Around 1,500 acid attack cases emerge around the world every year, according to the Acid Survivors Trust International.
Acid dissolves the glue that practically holds the skin together, by dissolving the protective stratum corneum layer. The burns almost always permanently disfigure the face with scars.
We need to educate people on the laws, and enlighten them about the pain of an acid attack survivor. Instilling fear among people by implementing even stricter laws can stop acid attacks in India.