“Then I felt a splash on my face. It burned and I screamed out. I started running and screaming, holding my face, all the way home. I didn’t look back.”
– Naomi Omi, Acid attack survivor, UK.
Acid attack is a form of violent attack carried out purposely by an individual or a group, to malign its victims not only physically but also psychologically. While our neighbour, Bangladesh has the highest record of acid attacks in the world, our own country (India) isn’t too far behind.
Majority of these attacks are carried out against women, however there have been cases reported where children and men have also been victims. Reasons behind these have been as trivial as rejecting a proposal, to not being able to bear a male child. Often considered an act limited to the illiterate section of the society, one will be surprised to know that the educated lot is an equal perpetrator here.
Few years ago, a software company professional earning a 5 figure salary was attacked by her husband while sleeping, all because he suspected her of having an affair with her co-worker. She is now earning her livelihood by working as a cook at an NGO.
An acid attack is not only limited to the appearance of a person, as it may seem to us from the outside. It has serious implications on one’s physical and mental health. The acid has the ability to even partly destroy one’s skull. It can cause loss of sight, hamper one’s ability to hear and create various other respiratory problems. The mental distress is equally hard if not worse.
Acid attack survivors are often rejected by the society and their families. They are succumbed to a life of anxiety and depression. Only a few of them find the necessary support and resources to cope up with such a life altering event.
There has indeed been a wonderful change in the psyche of people towards acid attacks. We can surely see an improvement in the perception of society at large towards these victims.
To site a few examples:
- A café ‘Sheroes’, was recently set up in Agra near The Taj Mahal which is being run by five women, all acid attack survivors.
- Laxmi Agarwal, once an acid attack victim, is today better known as a campaigner and a TV host. She has relentlessly fought against all odds, trying to bring awareness around the issue.
- Another pleasant occurrence was the photography shoot by Rahul Saharan with acid attack survivors showcasing the confidence, freedom and undying spirit of these warriors.
It is widely debated that the open sale of acid should be banned. But we should not forget here, that for an individual who can carry out an act as monstrous as throwing acid on someone’s face, it is not about the substance he is using but the urge to harm someone.
Such a heinous act stems from the deep rooted desire to hurt someone in the worst possible way. The perpetrators feel at ease, as the means to carry it out are easily available and the slow and incompatible law further adds to their confidence.
What we do today sets things in motion. While banning the sale of acid seems like the need of the hour, it is important to understand that if it is not acid, it can very easily be an axe in your face. Violence is violence. There are no degrees to it.
It has to be dealt with accordingly. Putting restrictions and bans can only curb a problem till someone finds another substitute to it.
What we need more, are stricter laws in our country to deal with such a menace. The usually slow process of justice along with medical restrictions of the survivor, are extremely taxing, due to which they sometimes end up losing even the little support they were earlier getting from their loved ones.
Victims should be entitled to generous compensation including free medical care and counseling by the government to help them lead their lives. Perpetrators should be dealt with in the strictest manner possible to permanently eradicate such an atrocity from our society.
It is the time violent attacks like these (including rape) are met with austere and unbending punishments, like life imprisonment.