Acid Attack on Women in India - Analysis
Acid attacks are the most widespread form of systematic abuse worldwide. Acid attacks and burns not only affected women but in the UK, men are also in threat of this violence over the last 10 years. UNICEF in a conducted research, reveals acid attacks as a serious threat to women and children, even for those who are below the age of 18. In an acid attack or vitriolage, acid is thrown at the face or body of the victim with deliberate intent to leave them with physical and psychological scarring.
A Quick Survey on Acid Attacks in India:
India tragically tops this global chart with approximately 1500 total cases reports every year. National Commission of India explained the meaning of Acid Attack as any act of throwing acid or using acid in any form with the intention or knowledge to cause serious injury to the victim that can be permanent or partial damage or deformity or disfiguration to any part of the body. According to the National Crime Records Bureau report, which was released in January 2020, reveals that out of 240 victims, 57% are women, and of these West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi account for almost half of it.
The 226th Law Commission Report has shown the offenders as most males and victims as females, particularly young ones for spurning suitors, rejected marriage proposals, or denying dowry. The attackers use acid as a weapon to silence or control women by destroying what is construed as the primary constituent of their identity. A renowned academician, Afroza Anwary attributes these attacks to the patriarchal ideology of society that is prevalent in India, a mark of masculinity and superiority over the women who try to debase them.
After-Effects Faced by the Survivors of Acid Attack:
According to the Acid Survivors Trust International, the survival rate is high amongst the victims, but the attacks come with catastrophic effects of physical, psychological, and sociological horror. Physical attacks are dismaying as acid eats layer of skin dissolving bones depending on how concentrated the acid is and permanently impairing the victim’s life. Due to corrosive and toxic fumes of acid, sometimes it leads to asphyxiation with chronic health consequences. Because of permanent scarring there leaves a gargantuan physiological effect on the victim. Rosenberg Scale shows victim’s lower self-esteem, lacking confidence, increased self-consciousness, lack of personality, and trepidation in the social sphere of their life.
Victims of these have reported higher anxiety levels, depression, and other mental health problems resulting in suicidal thoughts. Victims become ostracized either by society or by themselves. They face a number of challenges for being physically handicapped, effectively ruing their jobs, marriage prospects, leading to divorces or abandonment by husband, relinquishing all their future hopes.
The Legal Attack:
Prior to Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 the offence was registered under Section 320, 322, 325, 307 of the Indian Penal Code, 1908. Because of no separate legislation to deal with acid attacks, the approach of the judiciary became callous and nonchalant which was evidently shown in the case of Lila Devi v. State of Bihar.
Due to no provisions dealing with the compensation and rehabilitation to the victim of attacks, new sections were mounted in IPC, CrPC after Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. Various sections like Section 326A, 326B in IPC and Section 357A, 357B, 357C in CrPC were inserted. Section 326A and 326B of IPC make acid attack a separate offence with punishment not less than 10 years for throwing and 5 years for attempting and provide for treatment and medical expenses of victims. Similarly, Sec 357A of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 gives compensation to victims via Victim Compensation Scheme, 357B distinguishes the compensation given by the government from the fine imposed under Sec 326A of IPC and Sec 357C provides free medical expenses and treatment of acid attack victims.
Although India has taken effective measures to provide justicethe time-consuming judicial process has hurdled in securing justice for victims. NCRB statistics reflect the inadequacy of the legal system with the lowest conviction rates. In 2018, 523 cases went into trial and only 182 were disposed of by police investigation and courts, giving a conviction rate of 3.36%. But if we will compare the report of 2016, where 407 cases went to trial where 223 were disposed of, giving a conviction rate of 2.45%, which is substantively low from 2018. Let’s not forget that 90% of cases reported in one year do not reach trial and it takes 5 to ten years to completely dispose of a case.
The rules of the law should be diligently followed by the legal system. States must follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines of restricting the sale of acids in the case of Laxmi v. Union of India. Furthermore, the government should prepare reports and reliable data to attract NGOs and other organizations to prevent crime. On a more ground level, society must begin to educate young people about equality and spread awareness amongst people about the attackers. Movies like “Chhapaak” which is based on a truly inspirational story should be produced which portrays the realistic aftermath of a victim’s life. Now is the time that the people should treat women as a fabric of civilized Indian society.
UNICEF-United Nations Children’s Fund  Lila Devi V. State of Bihar-Criminal Appeal (SJ) No. 42 of 2003, delivered by High Court of Judicature at Patna on 3 February 2018  NCRB-National Crime Records Bureau  Laxmi V. Union of India-(2014) 4 SCC 427
Edited by Gemma Maria Suzzana. A, Associate editor, Lawgic Stratum.