Acid Attacks: The Gender-based Terrorism
Heinous crimes against women are not a new or uncommon phenomenon in our society. Women have been treated badly and been exploited for selfish motives for centuries by power-hungry men. Whether it is rape, sexual harassment, acid attack, eve-teasing or any form of domestic violence; the sick mentality behind these crimes is the same; what has changed over the years is the ways of committing them. An acid attack is a relatively new form of cruelty against women that devastates many innocent lives every year in India.
It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to get over a soul-crushing experience like an acid attack and rebuild life back to near normal. Anmol Rodriguez and Laxmi Agarwal are such a glowing examples. We salute her and many other brave-hearts like her who have fought their way back to dignity and grace, after a brutal and cowardly acid attack. They truly are the shining examples of the undying spirit of womanhood to keep going in spite of all odds, breaking all the barriers in the way. This post is dedicated to the unmatched, and often unrecognized, the valor of these real-life heroes of our society.
Some shocking statistics about acid attacks
Around 1,500 people face acid attacks every year. Out of these, over 80 percent of victims are women and 40 percent of these women are under 18 years of age.
Although Bangladesh is the world leader in acid attack incidences, India, Pakistan, Cambodia, and Afghanistan are not too far behind.
Government data shows that patriarchal societies such as UP, Bihar, Delhi, Punjab, and Haryana that have the worst sex-ratios have witnessed the most number of acid attack cases in the past few years.
According to the Acid Survivors and Women Welfare Foundation (ASWWF), 220 cases of acid attacks were recorded in West Bengal alone between the years 2010 and 2016. This is around 20% of all acid attack cases registered during that period in the entire country.
According to ASFI (Acid Survivor Foundation India), Uttar Pradesh topped the list of the states with the most acid attack cases in the year 2016 with over 29 registered cases. West Bengal was on the 2nd spot with 14 cases and Bihar was in the 3rd position with 10 cases.
The good news is that, these incidences have steadily decreased in the past few years.
The psychology behind an acid attack
So why some men resort to such extreme violent behavior of throwing acid on a woman’s face to burn her face and disfigure it forever? Why would a human being stoop this low to destroy another human beings life to this level? The motive is clearly not to end the life of the victim but to make it a living hell.
It is considered that a woman’s face is one of her proudest of possessions. Her physical beauty is valued much more in our society than that of a man when it comes to things like finding a match and marriage. That is the reason why men tries to attack women on face to give her the trauma and misery!
However, this is precisely the motive behind an acid attack. The attacker wants the victim to suffer. It is an attempt to demoralize and traumatize the victim and leave her in a condition where she cannot live a normal life. Most commonly, such attacks are attempted against women who step out of their gender-based subordinate position and proclaim their desire for gender equality. This is taken as a dishonor to the husband or family and they may conspire to throw acid on her face to “teach her a lesson of her lifetime”.
Unrequited love is often the reason behind such vile attacks. A woman who refuses marriage proposal, love or sexual favors is typically targeted by these sick and vengeful people with a brutal acid attack so that she will never again be capable of marrying or loving anyone else in her life.
It is a mix of jealousy, revenge, egotistic mentality and superiority complex of some intellectually stunted and emotionally retarded men that results in such a pathetic behavior against a woman.
The devastating consequences of an acid attack
As discussed above, killing the victim is seldom the true objective behind an acid attack. They are made to cause irreversible damage to a woman’s face and also tremendous mental and emotional suffering. To distort her face and turn her life into a perpetual tragedy is the real motive. An acid attack rarely results in the death of the victim. However, the horrible consequences of the attack can be so devastating that the survivor would rather prefer death over living with a deformed face and the resulting disabilities for the rest of her life.
Normally, the Sulfuric, Hydrochloric or Nitric acid is used for these attacks. When these acids are thrown directly on a woman’s face, they burn through her skin and literally melt the skin, hair, flesh and the facial bones to cause a permanent deformity to the face along with unbearable physical pain and suffering.
The effects of these acids on the body and its organs can be catastrophic. The acid may enter a victim's eyes to cause permanent blindness of one or both her eyes. Sometimes victims are forced to drink the acid which can cause terrible damage to their internal organs including their mouth, throat, food and windpipes stomach and intestines. Such victims may have to deal with severe health problems related to these organs for the rest of their life.
The psychological and emotional scars are deep and often never heal. The fear, trauma and immense mental pain that is caused by such gruesome attack can often leave the victim incapable of facing life and they may stay in a permanent state of anxiety neurosis and paranoia. They may lose all their self-confidence due to their deformed face and lose all hope for a normal life with a job, marriage, and children. The society also may not treat them well and they are often ostracized. This lack of self-worth and social support can push the victim into a deep depression and even suicide.
Measures to curb acid attacks
Legal measures: It is vitally important that the central as well as the state governments take this issue seriously and make stringent legal provisions to prevent them. It is also important to take fast and strict action against the perpetrators so that the fear of punishment will prevent them from even thinking of committing such atrocious crimes in the future.
One important measure is to regulate the sale of these acids that are so easily and cheaply available in the market. The #stopsaleacid campaign initiated by the Laxmi Aggarwal is a commendable step towards this objective. Thanks to her diligent efforts of 7 long years, it is now a punishable crime to sale acids without a license.
Changing the mindset: The very fact that these acid attacks are attempted mainly on women speaks volumes about the gender-biased mentality behind them. No wonder these violent crimes against women are committed primarily in those countries where the inequality between men and women is greater. Education and spreading awareness about these crimes and about the legal provisions to fight against them is important. Boys and girls should be educated about gender equality and mutual respect, early in their lives, to nip the vice in the bud.