As acid attacks remain unnoticed in Indian Society, there is an urgent need to identify the crime and book the criminals under stringent laws so that the deconstructed lives of many may meet some justice.
Woman in India is a lucky creature. She enjoys the emancipation of her new identity. She is Barkha Dutt, she is Indira Nooyi, she is Aishywarya Rai, she is Saina Nehwal and she is Sonia Gandhi too. She is an achiever and mighty too. She knows her mind and believes in bending the fate into her stride. She is out there with all preparedness and her achievements speak a volume about her calibre. This is the beautiful picture of today which depicts the omnipresent womanhood everywhere. Would you not wonder if I turn the picture 180 degree round and introduce you to the grave implications with which today’s women is inflicted with. The same women I have mentioned above turns not so lucky enough at certain issues which I am going to mention here. You might have heard of rapes, dowry and domestic violence on women, however, yet another horrendous crime – Acid Attacks – which is taking a toll on safety of women on road, is still unaccounted for and not very seriously taken. Unlike the common belief, acid attack not only damages the physical appearances but leaves its scar deep on the minds on women who suffer through this. Unfortunately, in our Incredible India, we have a number of acid-attacks cases in which the victims continue to suffer, while the culprit is either bailed out or is never caught. Last month on April 5, a 25-year-old orchestra bar singer named Jamuna Dera has sustained 25 per cent burn injuries to her face after she became a victim of an acid attack in the city in the wee hours. It is to be seriously mentioned that even in the city like Mumbai, acid attack is still prevalent. To exemplify the severity of acid attack further, here is an example of an acid attack victim, Arti.
Way back in 2000, in the chilling winters of Kanpur, Arti Srivastav was being proposed by a lovelorn. Little did Arti Srivasatav knew that rejecting a love proposal will not only cost her face, but also a traumatic life to lead. She will never be able to get over the traumatic experience, where some wannabe road romeo threw acid on Arti, when she said no to his proposal. In our system, it took a lot of effort and letter-writing, running from post to pillars, and 10 long years to get that justice for Arti, which was of no use for her anymore. As she went through a worse hell that bearing that piercing pain and agony when acid was thrown at her. And to add to her woes, the accused is out on bail on fake grounds. She is tormented with the fact that the accused is out in open and she has not met with justice. She says, “ The way my life has destructed, I do not want any other girl’s life to be spoiled like me. I want that Indian Constitution should come out with a definite law and criminals must be booked and be given rigorous punishment.”
Indian constitution has no accurate law to address acid attacks. These cases have been registered under IPCs section 322, 325 and 326. National crime record bureau has no data available on cases of acid attacks. The desperate search for NGOs working on acid attacks ended with a hopeless organization which has surrendered in front of slow system and ignorant government. A study by Avon Global Center for Women and justice found 153 cases of acid violence reported in Indian newspapers from January 2002 to Oct 2010. An another important fact is that Karnataka tops the list of acid attacks in Indian states.
Taking it as a serious matter of concern, Saumya Verma and I spoke and wrote to several ministeries so that we may have a proper law to book the criminal so that people like Arti get the justice they need. Letters have been sent to Women and Child Development Ministry, Mahila Ayog, Law commission of India and President of India. We wrote them the importance of our calls for an urgent amendment in the Indian Penal Code, Evidence Act and the Criminal Procedure Code for dealing with acid attack as a special offense. Krishna Tirath, Minister of Child and Women Development has reacted in written which says, “Government of India is seized of this matter. A high powered committee with representation of ministries of home, law and justice and National law commission for women and law commission of India has given its recommendation for the amendment of several provisions in Indian Penal Code and adding separate provisions for criminalising the acid attacks. The committee has recommended stringent punishment including imposition of fine on offenders.”
It was unfortunate that the ignorance by both of the Indian government and the civil society as acid attacks on women in India and the sub continent was constantly a common practice but it was not being classified as a separate crime here in India whereas our counterpart in Bangladesh had come up with a proper and separate law. Pakistan and Cambodia were also in position to frame a law to deal with acid attacks and to punish criminals who committed this heinous act on women and char their existence. But with Minister like Krishna Tirath talking a tough call on it, MP Annu Tandon promising to raise the issue in parliament we hope the change would be there.
SAA is a campaign against acid violence. We work as a bridge between survivors and the society, as most of the victims of this brutal crime, which is much more grave in its impact than a rape, have isolated themselves after losing their face. Due to ignorance of the government and civil society, most survivors find no hope and stay like an outcast, in solitude. SAA aims to research and track acid attack cases and compile a data to get the actual situation of survivors.
We work with partners and stakeholders towards elimination of acid and other forms of burn violence and protection of survivors' rights. The process of justice to an acid attack victim remains incomplete until she gets immediate medical, legal and economic help, along with the critical social acceptance. Our vision is to free India from this crime, which reflects the flaws of our patriarchal society and abusive attitudes. We want survivors to have access to fast justice and fight back the irreparable impact of this crime.
Any amount you can donate to us, no matter how small, will be very gratefully received and put to good use helping acid and burns violence survivors. Your help could help pay for dressings and medical supplies for recuperating patients. A small help could help survivors with vital physical rehabilitation after an attack, including physical therapy and nursing.