Preeti Rathi, victim of a heinous acid attack died on June 2 after battling for her life for a month. Her death has left a lot of questions unanswered for us, for our society. I feel no shame in admitting that till the point an incident doesn't take place, me and people like me don't say a word. After the incident has happened, we don't skip an opportunity to spit our prophesy on the case. So here I am writing on the case and the system of acid attacks.
What's the background of such crimes?
First of all, we have to understand the background of such attacks. Why do such things happen? Who commit these? Why do they do it?
The Frustration factor: Unsuccessful Love, the lust for female body, a mindset that dwells because of many social and financial factors are the most possible reasons for such things to take place.
Criminal men justify these crimes as an answer to women's refusal to reciprocate love. The mindset is often recognized in people with weak financial backgrounds. Jobless people, mostly uneducated with an unachieved desire to branch love commit such crimes.
The act of disfiguring women's face also gains momentum from the fact that lifestyles of people have completely changed over the years. Love has been there since immemorial times. Earlier in the cases of rejection of love, the most that used to happen was abductions of women, sad lovers penning down songs, a long life of depression, etc. The generations have changed now, demanding their desires to have an instant fulfillment, and if that doesn't happen, the love becomes violent. The platonic relationship which we used to see in earlier Bollywood movies and lyrics like "Humne dekhi hai in aakhon ki mahekti khushboo, haath se chhuuke ise rishton ka ilzaam na do, sirf ehsaas hai yeh isse rooh se mehsoos karo, pyar ko pyar he rehne do koi naam na do" (I have seen the perfumed scent of these eyes, Do not touch it and accuse it of a relationship, This is only a sentiment, feel it with your soul, Let love remain love, do not give it a name) have changed now, and now we see movies like Darr, Baazigar, etc, where the most popular actor is shown in negative light with the audience seeing even the wrongs as a good justification to unsuccessful love.
Other than love factor, there is a sense of rise of fear amongst men about women taking them over in all fields, from marks in schools and colleges to jobs and every other field in life. With the growing population of educated, working women, women have started making themselves trained in how to tackle the patriarchal mindset that continues to exist in the society, also the ways to live in a society securely, where there is a news of rape and other crimes happening against women every other day.
The assertion of independence, the courage to say "No" that women have learned in past 2 decades doesn't seem to go down well with the men. The males are not conditioned to hear "No" from a woman and they see it as the most humiliating scene for them.
Law alone can't tweak the mindset of the people. Yet, there have to be some laws to give some sense of fear amongst the people. Not only law, pending cases in judiciary should also be packed in a verdict with the biggest penalty be imposed.
The current law defines Acid Attacks as a separate crime, apart from other crimes on women. Also, it says that the criminals be given jail terms of not less than 10 years to a maximum of life imprisonment along with a fine that could go up to 10 Lakhs.
The law doesn't say anything about the cruelty a woman faces from the society. The psychological and physical scars that a woman has to bear for the whole life are certainly bigger than the jail terms for the criminals.
In the lieu of acid attacks happening, even Bangladesh and Pakistan have banned easy selling of acids such as Nitric and Sulphuric acid that are available for Rs. 30 a bottle.
In 2002 Bangladesh government passed two acts, the Acid Control Act 2002 and the Acid Crime Prevention Act 2002, restricting sale of acids in open markets.
In India there is no law to help a girl medically and financially if she suffers such a crime. This fact for sure asks questions about the seriousness of government on crime against women.
Acid attack victims are not even considered handicaps or physically disabled by law to get a reservation in education or jobs, which otherwise could provide some relief.
The Psychological Scars:
The social boycott a woman faces, the fear of losing jobs, breaking of marriage can never be helped out. In 99 percent of the cases, the face has never been constructed fully with plastic surgeries. Blind, disfigured face becomes the fate of acid attack victims. Also, in most of the cases the victims are not from much financially sound family. Add to that they now have to spend from Lacs to Crores for surgeries without any governmental help.
The society completely boycotts these women. Even the news reports are shown with a warning "Karyakram me dikhaye jane wale kuch Chitra aapko vichlit kar sakte hai, kripya bachche aur dil ke mareez nahi dekhein"
Fighting court cases for whole of their lives becomes a duty. The criminal, the acid attacker gets bails or gets released after some years with respect. But the plight of the victim is never taken into account. A home imprisonment for life is certainly bigger than judicial penalties an attacker faces.
A lot has to be done to stop such crimes, from changes in laws to changes in judicial system. But first, changing the mindset of the people and if required changing the mindset of the society altogether.