Tougher Laws needed to prevent Acid Attacks

Editor’s Desk: Promises to address gender gap are far from reality. These promises are meaningless until they are implemented. In India, women have been subjected to inhuman torture since ages and they have been deprived of right to freedom provided under the Constitution of India. According to a report by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a crime is recorded every three minutes in India. Every sixty minutes two women are raped in this country and every six hours a girl is subjected to domestic violence.

According to Thomas Reuters foundation survey, India is the fourth most dangerous place for women to live in. Acid attacks also known as vitriolage is a violent attack especially on women. Every year around 1500 people are attacked in this way across the world. Reports indicate that out of them, 80% are women and 40% to 70% are below 18 years of age.

In 2003, a group of three men attacked Sonali Mukherjee of Dhanbad in the dead of night and poured a cocktail of acid over her face and body. The incident burnt her body, turned her partially deaf and completely blind. The accused were let off on bail after three years in jail. Nine years on, Sonali has been requesting help from government for her treatment but not even a single file has moved in any of the government offices. Frustrated with her predicament, she now demands Euthanasia to end her life. This is not just one incident that has happened. There are hundreds of Sonali Mukherjees struggling to get what they deserve – justice.

Acid attacks are the gravest offences committed on women and the need of the hour is to have a concrete law in place. In 2006, Law Commission on seeing the rise in acid attacks on women decided to insert 326A in the Indian Penal code (IPC) for acid attack victims. It stated that there would be ten years and a fine of 10 lakh rupees for the acid attack accused. Since the current laws did not specify to whom the fine should be awarded. National Council for Women (NCW) suggested setting up a National Acid Attack Victims’ Assistance Board to take of their rehabilitation. Later 326B was inserted in the IPC, which stated that any person found accused of attempting to throw acid on another person would be imprisoned for seven years and would be liable for a fine of Rs 1 lakh.

There are many shortcomings of these existing laws. Till date, there are no laws on regulating the sale of acids except the Manufacture, Storage and import of Hazardous Chemicals Rule which is applicable mostly to industries. Acids are readily available on hardware stores and there is no ban on their personal use.

The fine amount may not be sufficient to fund a plastic surgery. Hence, the amount imposed should be extended. In some states like Karnataka, victims have been provided money for treatment from State funds. But for unfortunates such as Sonali Mukherjee, there is no such provision in Jharkhand.

Special acid attacks tribunal should be made for addressing such cases only. Besides, a comprehensive structure for rehabilitation of such women should be made which would focus on giving jobs, providing education etc. It is sad but true as one of the victims states that the real struggle and pain is encountered while trying to get justice and rehabilitation.

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