Kofi Annan rightly observed that “Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and perhaps the most pervasive.” Violence against women is not a thing of the past, we witness violence even today. There has been hardly any day when we have not read or heard news about violence against women which includes rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, honour killings, dowry violence, forced marriage, stalking, kidnapping, trafficking, psychological abuse, acid throwing, etc.
Acid attack is one of the most grievous kinds of violence women face. There is no separate statistics for acid violence cases in India till early 2013 because the Indian criminal Law did not recognize it as a separate offence. With the amendment in Indian Penal Code in February 2013, incidents of acid attack are now being recorded as a separate offence under section 326A and 326B. The first data available after the amendment relate to the year 2014 when 225 cases were reported from all over India. This indicates a steep rise compared to the previous years – 106 in 2012 and 116 in 2013.
Here are stories of some of the acid attack victims who have shown strength and have become an inspiration to all
In 2005, 15-year-old Laxmi was attacked with acid by a 32-year-old man whose marriage proposal she had rejected. She filed a PIL in 2006 with 27,000 signatures to the Supreme Court of India to curb acid sales. Her petition led the Supreme Court to order the central and state governments to regulate the sale of acid. Through the efforts of Laxmi, the Supreme Court, in 2013 stated new regulations, under which acid could not be sold to anyone below the age of 18 and one needs to furnish a photo identity card to buy it. Laxmi started her career as a campaigner with Stop Acid Attacks campaign. As of June 2014, Laxmi hosts a television show, Udaan, on New Express.
17-year-old Reshma was attacked by her estranged brother-in-law and two other assistants in 2014. The attack was actually aimed at her sister Gulshan but Reshma was mistaken for her. Today, Reshma is a beauty blogger, she is the face of Make Love Not Scars, an organisation that works for the complete rehabilitation of acid attack survivors and provides them financial, legal and educational help. She also walked for Archana Kochhar at the 2016 New York Fashion Week.
Rohtak’s Ritu Saini was on her way to practice volleyball when two men on motorbike splashed acid on her face. Both the men were hired by Ritu’s paternal aunt’s son, Ram Niwas Saini who wanted to teach her a lesson for “ditching” him. Now she works in a café named ‘Sheroes Hangout’ which is run by a group of acid attack victims.
In 2003 Sonali was attacked with acid when she was asleep on the roof of her house by three men who had threatened to teach her a lesson as she was arrogant. The attackers were sentenced nine years in jail but were granted bail when they appealed to the High Court. Sonali accompanied with Lara Dutt participated in Kaun Banega Crorepati season 6 and won 25 lakhs. In Feb 2014 State Govt. of Jharkhand appointed Sonali Mukherjee as Grade III clerk in the welfare department of the Bokaro deputy commissioner’s office.
These acid attack victims have displayed an unmatched amount of bravery. They are an inspiration to each one of us and teach us to overcome obstacles and pursue our goals.
But we still have a long way to go. We need to do something to stop acid attacks and that can only be done by completely banning the sale of acid in retail markets and by giving stringent punishment to the perpetrators. The government must also provide proper medical support to the survivors for their treatment.
Whenever there is even a small burn, we feel so much pain and itching, we cannot even imagine what the acid attack victims go through. Not only health effects, they also suffer trauma and discrimination. We need to be more accepting as they think people may stare or laugh at them, and as a result hesitate to leave their homes fearing adverse reactions from the outside world. The society must be loving and caring so that they can easily rehabilitate the society. Last but not the least, the children must be brought up in a way that they are patient and manage their anger well because this kind of anger in which a person becomes totally inhumane and throws acid on the face of other person is completely unacceptable.
Image Source- The Indian Express