Acid attack is not something new in India. The incidents send a chill down the spine of people. The defaced faces of survivors tell its own tale of woes, but their families are often driven to bankruptcy while supporting medical treatment of the victims. The Indian Penal Code was modified in 2013 for the first time to add regulations tailored to acid attacks. But have we done enough? Do enough of us care? Why should we care? Why should we care anymore than we do for general fight for women’s rights and safety in India about acid attacks? Over the last decade India is witnessing an alarming growth of acid attack especially on women. Acid attack is a heinous crime committed against any woman, with an intention to disfigure or kill her. This can also be called as the gender based violence against women. Recent study reveals that 78% of the reported acid attack case is for refusal to marriage or a rejection of romance.
“Acid attack on young women” is some of the headlines that are appearing in the daily newspaper. Acid attack on women is increasing day by day. The rising number of acid attack cases, from 83 in 2011 to 349 in 2015, shows India’s inability to grapple with this heinous crime. Cases continue unabated in various parts of the country, showing the pan-Indian character of this form of assault. Over the last few months, cases of acid violence have been reported from Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bihar, Assam and Delhi, underlining the fact that li. It is our sincere hope that the dismal condition of the legal apparatus with regard to acid attacks can be improved, so that the victims’ problems can be assuaged and Indian society becomes a safer place for women. Little has been done to regulate the availability of acid, despite the Supreme Court directive  three years ago. India has the highest number of acid attacks in the world, but the worst conviction rates. As it is often the case with other crimes against women, acid attacks are treated with official apathy and societal indifference.
The victims are usually women between the ages of 14 and 35 years, and the attack often occurs as revenge for rejecting a marriage proposal or sexual advances, showing the peculiar mindset of male entitlement and power, and no right for a woman to refuse. Women have had acid thrown at them for not bringing enough dowries, for bearing a female child and for not cooking a good enough meal. What factors allow such attacks? Un-counselled anger and frustration is behind the crimes as much as pre-disposition to sociopathic traits and violence and societal chauvinism plays a significant role (85% of the victims are women). But the real culprit to blame is the ease to get away with it. Anger over rejection (41% of attacks in India from 2010 – 2013 was from spurned lovers) causes the desire to lash out and inherent disregard for women in specific and human suffering in general seeds the thought, but the lax laws – both to limit availability and to counter the crime – is what lets the perpetrators (who happen to list from white collar officials to migrant workers) convert their thoughts in to action.
Why does our conscience as a nation need to be shocked again and again with multiple faces over so many years leaving us vulnerable in the meantime to such a cruel and destructive crime? India has acknowledged the cancer of acid attacks by framing suitable laws. But clearly these laws need better implementation, as do efforts to put survivors on the road to rehabilitation. Finally, one of the most efficacious ways of curbing acid attacks would be to control the sale of acid over the counter. At present, acid is abundantly and cheaply available in Indian markets. The Law Commission has observed that there are no regular inspections of stocks for acid sales as there are for explosives. It would be prudent to appoint government officials for the purpose of keeping track of acid sales and ensuring that it is not purchased for purposes other than scientific and academic research. A licensing authority can be set up by the government so that only those who have the requisite clearance from the government for having access to acid can purchase it.
This would hopefully lead to a lesser incidence of acid attacks in the near future. . It is our sincere hope that the dismal condition of the legal apparatus with regard to acid attacks can be improved, so that the victims’ problems can be assuaged and Indian society becomes a safer place for women.
*Jnendra Parakh is pursuing BA. LL.B. (Hons.)
from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur, Chhattisgarh.
Views expressed in the article are personal.