Analysis of acid attacks on women in India

Acid attacks mean throwing acid or any other harmful substances with the complete knowledge of creating permanent or partial damage to another person.  As acid is cheap and easily available than other chemical substances to throw on women. Most of the girls became the victims of acid attacks was because they refused the sexual advances and marriage proposals.  Acid attacks are inhumane crimes as these attacks lead to death or cause permeant damage to the victim out of jealousy or revenge.1

Acid attack is a social evil in society, it is a serious crime compared to rapes.  These attacks are mainly targeting the weaker sections of society like women and children. In India during the previous decade there, was an increase in the cases of acid attacks on women especially in most of the cases are filled due to dowry, the desire for revenge, and other martial-related problems to portray the domination of male domination on society. The cases mostly filed due to the attacks by vindictive lovers are higher in number as they take acid attacks for taking out their vengeance. Another major reason for the acid attacks is due to the Financial independence of the women in society Globalization has created huge resentment and enmity on the unemployed men. Traditionally men are considered as the breadwinners in society and women’s role is considered as taking care of the family. Thus, women are hampered by the burdens of the family and are frequently made the victims of these attacks as their husbands and the extended families when she fails to up to their standard of expectations.2

In India, Acid attacks on women are considered a major issue in the current scenario. It is considered as one of the most heinous crimes of violence that are committed against women as women are considered the weaker sections in the society and to highlight the domination of men over women through these attacks. The current research papers mainly focus upon the factors and effects of acid attacks faced by acid victims and offenders.  This research would help to examine the related cases and understand deeply the legal effects of acid attacks. In order to suggest the preventive steps to reduce these attacks.

  1. Gender aspect on Acid Attacks:

The Violence on women definition was given by the convention which was formed by the UN General Assembly for eliminating all kinds of discrimination against women and also to protect the rights of women was passed in the year 1979. This convention states on discrimination of women in society as:

“…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”3

Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 1979 amended by UN General Assembly

Most of the acid attack cases take place on women it exhibits the level of inequality and discrimination faced by women in today’s society. The culprits of Acid Attacks generally attempt to destroy and deteriorate the condition of women physically, mentally, emotionally in many other ways and also to create a sense of fear on the minds of the victim and makes them reduce their role in society.

“…particularly young women for spurning suitors, for rejecting proposals of marriage, for denying dowry, etc. The attacker cannot bear the fact that he has been rejected and seeks to destroy the body of the woman who has dared to stand up to him.”4

226th Report, 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).

In most of the male-dominated societies and conservative societies, the exaggeration made on the marriage of a girl on the factors like her complexion and virginity play a major role in the selection of the bride, and having a pre-marital relationship is considered abhorrent in society. The cases related to attacks by vindictive lovers are higher in number as they take acid attacks for taking out their vengeance. Another major reason for the acid attacks is due to the Financial independence of the women in society Globalization has created huge resentment and enmity on the unemployed men.

Traditionally men are considered as the breadwinners in society and women’s role is considered as taking care of the family. Thus, women are hampered by the burdens of the family and are frequently made the victims of these attacks as their husbands and the extended families when she fails to up to their standard of expectations. The dispute of property is considered as another main source of acid attacks on women. The main motive of acid attacks on women is based on factors and feelings. As some of the culprits misuse acid for removing their vengeance and degrade them. While others attack due to their deep-rooted feelings to show their dominance over women.  

2. Effects of Acid Attacks:

1. Physical Effects: Acid causes a destructive effect on the human body as it leads to deformity and disabilities on the vital organs of the victim. The deepness of the injury is based on the intensity of the acid and the contact of acid with the skin as in some cases acid swallows two layers of the skin and sometimes it may even lead to the dissolution of the bone. When the acid is thrown on the face of the victim it speedily spreads to the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. In many cases, the acid causes permanent damage to the eyes and other parts of the face. It causes a serious reaction on the lungs and even after healing the acid burns leave marks on the body of the victim. In worst cases when the acid is widely spread it may even lead to the death of the victim.

2. Phycological Effect: The majority of the acid assault survivors undergo numerous mental health-related issues as they cause a deep eternal trauma, stress, and fear due to the acid attack. They often receive sympathetic behavior from society especially the closed ones which leads to an increase in anxiety, depression, social isolation, and an increase in suicidal thoughts as they lose their self-esteem due to the acid attack marks.

3. Social Effects: In several cases, the acid survivors get ostracized by society in the matters like marriage. They are hesitant that people will stare or make fun of them and sometimes the victims are not likely for getting married as some of them suffer from serious disabilities due to the acid attack which somehow make them dependent on their family for daily activities and if the survivors, they often received divorce and abandonment by the husband due to the disability or impairment.  

4. Economic Effect:  The acid attack survivors often suffer from various disabilities in some way which in turn increases their dependence on the families for daily activities. These victims are often unable to find a suitable job due to their impairment in some way leaves them unemployed. 

3. Legal Effects of Acid Attack in India:

In India, acid attacks occur on the frequent number but there are no separate laws to govern the crimes related to acid attacks until the amendment of the Criminal Law Act, 2013 under this acid attacks are considered as an offense under sections 320, 322, 325,326 of the IPC with the case law.

i. Section 320: It states that if any severe hurt is caused to a person which causes the danger to human life or suffers the pain 20 days of severe bodily pain or unable to do the ordinary activities. such as “Emasculation, Permanent privation of the sight of either eye, Permanent privation of the hearing of either ear, Privation of any member or joint, Destruction or permanent impairing of the powers of any member or joint, Permanent disfiguration of head or face, Fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth”

ii. Section 322: “Whoever voluntarily causes hurt, if the hurt which the intends to cause or knows himself to be likely to cause is grievous hurt, and if the hurt which he causes is grievous hurt, is said to “voluntarily to cause grievous hurt” Explanation- It says that if any person voluntarily does not cause a severe hurt except when he causes a severe hurt with the intention to endanger the other person. But voluntarily causing the hurt with the intention is one kind while causing a severe hurt is another kind.

iii. Section 325:  Under this section, any person who voluntarily causes a grievous hurt will be punished for a term which may even exceed seven years of imprisonment or fine or both, except if in case the hurt is caused due to the provocation under the section 335.

iv. Section 326:  This section states that if any person causes permanent or partial damage or any kind of disability or disfigures in any part of the body or causes severe damage by throwing acid or regulating with acid or any other kind with the intention of causing the grievous will be punished with the term not less than ten years of imprisonment which may extend to imprisonment of life with fine. And the culprit must provide the reasonable medical expenses of the victim and pay the fine as imposed in this section.

v. Laxmi vs. Union of India & Ors.5 the case is considered as a landmark case in the legal history of India as in this the guidelines were issued on acid attacks for the first time where Supreme Court has imposed the restrictions on the sale of acid and compensation was provided for the victim. The amendment for the Criminal Law Act was passed with this case as mentioned above. As prior to this verdict there was no ban on the sale of Acid but with this act, the ban on Acid was imposed.

Conclusion:

Acid attacks are considered inhuman acts. The main targets for these attacks are generally weaker sections of the society that is women and children. In this paper, the researcher has mainly focused upon acid attacks on women. In most cases, women are attacked by the vindictive lovers for removing their vengeance when she denies it or their family denies them from marrying to show their superiority and domination in the society. In some cases, it is due to the financial independence of women as seen traditionally for taking care of the family, and men are considered for winning the bread for the family. The current research papers mainly focused upon the factors and effects of acid attacks faced by the acid victims. Also, the legal aspects of Acid attacks were adopted with the Laxmi vs. Union of India case where the Supreme Court has laid down the guidelines for the first time in the legal history through the Criminal Law Act, 2013.             

References:

  1. UNICEF
  2. National Commission of India, 2009
  3. Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 1979 amended by UN General Assembly
  4. 226th Report, 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).
  5. Laxmi vs. Union of India & ors.,2014 SCC (4) 427
  6. Nehaluddin Ahmad, Acid Attacks on women: An Appraisal of the Indian Legal Response, Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law (2) (2011) 55-72
  7. Elora Halim Chowdhury, Feminist Negotiations: Contesting Narratives of the Campaign against Acid Violence in Bangladesh, Duke University Press,Vol. 6, No. 1 (2005), pp. 163-192 (30 pages)
  8. Ms. Meghna Bajpai & Ms. Sugandha Singh, Acid Attack: A Burning Issue in India ,2015 VOL III, No. 2, ISSN. 2321-1997.
  9. Mr. Alok Rawat & Dr. Saadiya, Acid Attacks in India: Recommendations for Deterrence, Jamia Law Journal,2018, Vol. 3.
  10. Athar, U., Rahman, S. U., Gill, S. I., Jamil, T., Sharif, M. A., & Sana, M. K. (2020). Life Perspective and Social Health after Acid Burn: An Observational Study of Three Victims. Cureus, 12(8)

Aishwarya Says:

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