Navya MiryalaMs. AitkenWRIT 130112 December 2017What Impels a Man to Literally Deface a Woman?Imagine what it would be like to have your face taken away from you. For acid attack victims, plastic surgery is not a luxurious choice made due to one’s personal unsatisfaction. Often times plastic and reconstructive surgery is the difference between life and death in acid victims.
One of such victims is a 38-year old woman named Vimla. She was traveling to Lucknow from Savaiya Dhani on March 23rd of 2017 to return to work at Sheroes Hangout Cafe (“Acid Attack Survivor” 1). On the train she was traveling, she was physically abused until she was nearly unconscious, then she was forced to drink acid.
Vimla was earlier gang raped on December 11, 2008 by these men (“Acid Attack Survivor” 1). After filing a case against the perpetrators in 2009, she was physically assaulted on February 19, 2011 as a blackmail to drop the case. As a result of Vimla denying the blackmail, the men acid attacked her again on October 25, 2013 (“Acid Attack Survivor” 1). The threat letter received on January 18, 2017, said if she did not drop the rape and acid-attack cases, “acid would run in her veins instead of blood” (“Acid Attack Survivor” 1). Evidently, vimla was attacked repeatedly with intentions of silencing her, yet survivor Vimla refused to withdraw the cases (“Acid Attack Survivor” 1).
The results of multiple acid attacks caused Vimla severe damage to her body internally and externally, according to Dr. Ved Prakash, co-incharge of the ICU she is currently being treated in (“Acid Attack Survivor” 1). “Every day I wake up with fear. I cannot sleep and work properly as my mind is occupied with the past thoughts. But still I try to give my best at this café,” she said (Sujoy 1).
Vimla’s case is only one in the thousands of reported cases in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Cambodia. There are many more cases that go unreported, as many survivors, unfortunately, remain shameful of their assault (Nehaluddin 112). Acid attacking, a vicious, gender-based hate crime against the women of South Asia, is caused by the prevailing idea of male dominance in society. To specify, men demonstrate their dominance in society by taking away women’s crucial physical, psychological, and social elements of their life. Additionally, the lack of government attention to this matter reinforces that male-dominance (and acid attacking lol) is acceptable in society. Effects of acid attacks are detrimental to victims’ physical, psychological, and social health.
Acid Attacking is the act of throwing acid onto the body of another person with intentions of injuring or disfiguring a person, resulting in burning or dissolution of the victim’s skin, connective tissue, or even bones (Nehaluddin 110). Other physical damage caused to victims include: third and fourth degree burns that may expose the bone, disfigurement of facial features, blindness, damage to vital organs such as the heart, kidneys, lungs, intestines, etc. Damage to the skin, heart, and lungs may lead to severe infection, due to remains of dead skin, pulmonary disorders, and respiratory failure, as airways may be blocked off (Nehaluddin 111). Numerous reconstructive surgeries are necessary for the healing process; for some patients it may be as high as 80 reconstructive surgeries (Nehaluddin 112). Survivors often spend the rest of their life recovering from such brutal attacks.
This crime also leaves harmful effects to victims’ mental state. 86% of survivors suffer from mental disorders (Nehaluddin 112). Common psychological disorders developed include: depression, anxiety, fear, insomnia, paranoia, psychosis, ADHD, etc. Victims feel depressed, ashamed, and lonely not only because society blames them for “provoking perpetrators,” but also because of their appearance, the aftermath of the incident (Nehaluddin 112).
As stated before, acid instantly disfigures soft tissue on the face, the most prominent target of attack. Losing the face is particularly distressing, as the face is the central humanizing creation; it is an individual’s form of identity. For women in South Asia, their face is also a part of their femininity. Acid Attack survivor Haseena says: “Beauty is only skin deep. Whoever came up with this line probably had never met an acid attack victim. I had never imagined I would hear at 18 what grandmothers in their 60s or 70s get to hear: “She was beautiful.
” The past reference is generally to the days when their skin was wrinkle-free or, as in my case, not etched hideously by the acid of alcohol-induced anger” (“Haseena: I was only” 1). Haseena is one of the majority of survivors who feel insecure about their facial appearance. Correspondingly, rejection from society diminishes survivors’ self confidence. An estimation of about 1,500 facial acid attacks occur each year, with many unreported due to fear of retaliation (Farrelly 24). “On the basis of media reports and extrapolations, action groups estimate that the number of acid attacks in India could be as high as 1000 a year” (Sharma 1013). The reason many attacks remain unreported is because survivors fear revenge of the perpetrator and dread the thought of a second attack (Nehaluddin 112).
This raises fright, anxiety, and ADHD in numerous victims. This type of incident can be exemplified by Vimla’s case of being repeatedly acid attacked, as she never dropped the withdrew the police case file. Survivors that endure physical and psychological adversities also face socio-economic and social hardships. Physical disabilities immensely impact survivors’ ability to work; it is common for victims to lose their jobs as a result of their impaired physical state. Over 65% of survivors are women that live in rural, poverty-stricken areas, where a majority of their income is earned from performing physical labor outside (Sharma 1013). Since victims are prone to infection and bear sensitive skin, it is recommended that they do not stay for prolonged hours in the sun (“Acid Attack Survivor” 1). Moreover, survivors generally get fired, as managers feel that they scare customers and other workers, or they are simply no longer able to meet the necessary requirements. An additional dilemma survivors and survivors’ families must face is the inability to find suitors that desire her hand in marriage.
Women are considered to be responsible for domestic duties, which require physical ability to work. Common tasks include caring for offspring, cooking meals, keeping the house clean, etc. It is difficult for women to do such tasks, for example, if they are subject to bed rest ten hours of the day.
Another reason they are not likely to be proposed to is the common factor of rejection: the disfigured appearance. Men in South Asian countries find physical beauty a main factor is marriage. Marriage is important to women, as sometimes it is their only way of securing financial stability. Many families put effort into finding a decent suitor for their daughters, as it ensures their well being with a husband who can provide for the her. If they feel they permanently lose their chances of being proposed, it adds to their anxiety and depression. In not finding a husband, survivors put an immense burden on their parents as well. Another issue families of survivors face is the need to leave their home in order to stay safe and avoid repeated attacks from perpetrators. In order avoid worrying the family, the victim conclusively leaves the family.
If attackers do not leave the family alone, then they must move out too. This would be an immense financial loss for the family as a whole. Men target women with intentions of corrupting their future in ways that reflect their dominance over women. In South Asian countries, a woman’s appearance is considered her most valuable asset (Chowdhury 165). This belief is culturally constructed by the patriarchal societies in this region.
Most women are attacked in the face in order to permanently scar and disfigure facial feature, therefore, destroying their most cherished attribute of beauty. Contrastingly, when men attack other men, perpetrators injure other parts of the body. Women, symbolically the honor and possession of the patriarchal family and community, are hence marked as “spoiled goods” (Chowdhury 165). This reflects the culturally constructed belief that women are inferior and may be controlled by men. The act of performing the acid attack is generally a premeditated plan by a male suitor rejected by the targeted woman. Other matters that motivate perpetrators include spurned sexual advances of a man, martial disputes, dowry demands, etc.
The goal of a majority of attackers is to ruin the lives of the woman who defy them. To do so, they desire to underhandedly control the identity, and therefore, the fate of the woman by taking away her confidence, her chances of getting married, and her ability to earn money for herself. “This form of identity theft amounts to “living death.” Acid attacking is a devious crime, as it must be preplanned in order to be successful with it.
Also, the attackers take aspects that are extremely personal away from women. In doing so, they control the fate of the victim. Since “women are considered bearers of tradition and honor, it is on their bodies that contestations over gender hierarchies, ownership, and power of males are played out” (Chowdhury 167). Dr. Mohammad Jawal, a London-based, Pakistan-born surgeon specialising in acid-burn reconstruction, says, “Acid attacks are not about religion or culture but rather signify parts of the world where women are not empowered” (Farrelly 24). In other words, acid attacking is a hate crime towards women, due to harsh gender-roles held upon women and their inferior position compared to men in society.
The idea of male dominance is emphasized by the government’s indifference toward the crime, as they are not taking the necessary steps to lower acid attack rates. Statistics show a clear increase in the number of acid attacks in the South Asian country in recent years. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation India, at least 106 attacks were reported in 2012 and rose to over 500 in 2015 (Islam 1). India, in particular, had many opportunities to learn from other countries to take action to stop vitriolage. This country should have grasped ideas from challenges faced in actual enforcement of laws in countries like Bangladesh.
Shah of ASTI: Acid attacks in Bangladesh have dropped by 75% since 2002, he says, following the adoption of specific laws criminalising acid violence and limiting accessibility of acid through introduction of licenses. The rate has dropped 85% by 2003 when the death penalty was introduced. Pakistan and Cambodia have also enacted similar laws. If the government was more attentive to violence geared toward women, they would have taken greater steps to prevent acid attacks in 2013, when attack rates started rising.
This can be reflected in the number of cases that get brought to court compared to how many attacks are reported. For example, out of the 174 cases that reported in India in the year of 2000, only 9 cases were verdicted for. It is a critical issue that political authorities are not as concerned as they should be. The government’s indifference about acid attacking is further reflected in its lack of regulation on the sales of acid. It is commonly found in appliance stores, making it effortless for perpetrators to obtain the acid.
Hydrochloric and sulphuric acids are readily available for only 25 rupees, the equivalent of 50 cents. The Manufacture, Storage, and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Amendment of 1989 regulates the sale of acid, as it requires licensing to buy over the counter. However, the Law Commission has observed that there is no regular inspection of stock acids. This reflects the lack of political enforcement of the law surrounding acid associated crimes. In addition to the unregulated sales of acid, the government must strengthen and clarify existing laws concerning violence. Legal provisions under which the accused is charged are reported under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). The accused can be charged under Section 325 (punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt) for seven years and also be fined (bailable). Under Section 326 (Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means), the punishment could be imprisoned for life, or for a term extended for 10 years and fined (non-bailable).
All these sections are mentioned for causing “grievous hurt,” though “grievous hurt” is not well defined. To qualify as “grievous hurt,” the suspect must not only cause damage to the victim, but also intend it. The excerpt describing the “intentional violence” is a necessary to be defined as “grievous hurt” is called the mens rea element. This section under the Indian Penal Code is profoundly vague, resulting in lenient punishments for attackers. The following case echos numerous other court cases associated with acid attacks. The Supreme Court came to the relief of an acid attack victim from Telangana [the victim is unnamed] as it ordered Rs 3.
5 lakh compensation for her and one-year jail term for the accused, whose punishment the high court had reduced to 30 days — time already spent behind bars — despite holding him guilty. (SC restores punishment..) Victims generally feel no justice is done, as the government does not give adequate punishment to the accused. Moreover, victims do not receive the special medical attention or security needed.
As stated before, a majority of acid victims live under the poverty line and in rural areas of town. In such isolated parts of town, there are rarely hospitals that have special burn care units. In order to be properly treated, the victim must rely fully on compensation from the government for any necessary reconstructive surgeries. Although the Supreme Court has directed that victims be paid compensation of at least 300,000 rupees ($4760) to help with rehabilitation costs, many survivors can only receive basic treatment with this amount of money. Survivors and action groups feel the amount is arbitrary and inadequate, as full medical treatment could cost several million rupees. Another defect in the way the government is handling vitriolage is their lack of protection given to survivors.
This is shown in Vimla’s case when she requested government security to be sent to her home as protection. Even after the she lodged another police case for receiving a threat on January 18th of 2017, she was only given assurances.Women of South Asia undergo acid attacking, an atrocious, gender-based hate crime caused by society’s patriarchal mindset. This patriarchy is demonstrated in the particular manner perpetrators target women. They are attacked in ways that target their femininity, leading to the downfall of their physical, mental, social-economic, and social lives.
Additionally, the government shows indifference towards the detrimental issue of vitriolage, as it lacks adequate attention to the matter. Thousands of women experience the horrific struggles of an acid attack, though Vimla’s case is distinctive in comparison. Vimla boldly refused to withdraw any of the cases she lodged until she secured justice. On March 25th of 2017, the two men that attacked her were arrested for gangrape and multiple acid attacks. Although her attackers are behind bars, she continues to fight for other victims and bring justice for all. The government has much to alter in order to better the outcome of vitriolage. Respectfully, the government should: create a detailed law particularly for acid attacks against women, send security guard officers to establish protection for victims, give victims complete legal support in order to fight for justice, and take responsibility for treatment.
The government can improve to the acid attack rates greatly; however, as stated by Vimla, “It is a patriarchal mindset that is leading to such crimes. It is the way the boys are raised. .
.. They are taught from the childhood that they are superior to women.
” The cultural construction of male dominance is the underlying cause of all forms of discrimination against women of South Asia, including acid attacking. A change in the mentality of patriarchal mentality and the implementation of humanness is all society may need to stop acid attacks and respect women.