Why The Acid Attack Is An Indicator Of A Malady In the Kashmir Society?

by Aasia Hassan

What caught my attention and made me totally uncomfortable was the view of a considerable amount of people, which was that acid should be thrown on the sisters of these accused and the accused should be made to marry the victim.

Hearing the shocking news of an acid attack on a young girl has left everyone in shock and anguish, as deep down we the people of Kashmir had not considered our society being this deteriorated.

Perpetually Scarred

Acid attacks can be considered as one of the most vicious forms of violence against women, as it makes the victim suffer for perpetuity. As acid melts flesh and even the bones of a person, it causes an unimaginable degree of pain to the victim and leaves her mutilated and scarred for life as well as giving permanent disabilities most of the time such as blindness. Victims face a lifetime of physical, social, psychological and economic consequences.

Apart from physical suffering, victims suffer severe psychological symptoms for life, because they are reminded every day of their physical scars, their whole life is turned upside down in a spur of time. The feeling of lack of hope and worth may never leave them.

Discriminated Forever

Victims face a lifetime of discrimination from society and they become lonely. They are embarrassed that people may stare or laugh at them and may hesitate to leave their homes fearing an adverse reaction from the outside world. Victims who are not married are not likely to get married and those victims who have got serious disabilities because of an attack, like blindness, will not find jobs and earn a living.

Discrimination from other people, or disabilities such as blindness, makes it very difficult for victims to fend for themselves and they become dependent on others for food and money, thereby causing everlasting agony to the victim.

Patriarchy

It has been observed that the motive behind most of the acid attacks is a rejection of a marriage proposal or rejection to indulge in an illicit relationship by the girl and in other cases not meeting the demands of dowry etc. The problem with our society is that the patriarchy is still so deeply rooted that a boy/man considers it an insult to his manhood when given an answer in negative.

In simple terms, the upbringing of most of our pampered male counterparts is in such a way that they can’t hear “No” to a question. This brings us to the concept of consent which is almost unavailable in our society, that by merely exercising it, a woman is subjected to gruesome acid attacks. On one hand, a woman is given a high accord in almost all the religions of the world, yet on the other hand, she is not even free to say no, or deny coloured remarks from a perpetrator.

The Punishment

The punishment provided for acid attacks under section 326A of the Indian Penal Code is imprisonment for a period which shall not be less than 10 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and also fine sufficient to meet the expenses of the victim.

A group of men and women stage a protest in Srinagar against an acid attack on a 24-year-old girl in downtown Srinagar on February 1, 2022. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

So after the news of the arrest of the three accused persons involved in the attack, I came across some posts of some social media news portals, where a debate was going on as to what should be punishment given to these accused. While everyone has freedom of speech and expression, they have the right to hold an opinion and there were mixed opinions regarding the alleged punishment, such as capital punishment, public hanging, throwing acid on the faces of the accused etc.

However, what caught my attention and made me totally uncomfortable was the view of a considerable amount of people, which was that acid should be thrown on the sisters of these accused and the accused should be made to marry the victim. It was quite shocking to read such suggestions, and if this is the mentality of our even 10 per cent population, I don’t know what we are headed towards.

Three Persons Arrested In Srinagar Acid Attack on February 2, 2022. Pic: JKP

Crimes Against Women

Why are women always at the receiving end of violence?

First, the victim is a woman suffering for her life at the hospital and now instead of punishing the accused, you are suggesting, other women are made the culprits, that is the sisters of the accused be administered with acid.

Second, the victim who is traumatized for life should be made to suffer more by making her get married to the accused. These are the same people who suggest a victim of rape marrying her rapist will solve the problem. There were even comments targeting the girl as she might have done something to provoke the perpetrator to take this step.

When will an accused in crimes against women be held solely accountable for his doings?

Aasia Hassan

The police have arrested the culprits and now the burden lies on the judiciary as well as the police to set an example by granting harsher punishments as the fate of the daughters of Kashmir lies on them. Punishments are not meant to punish the criminals but also to serve as deterrence against future crimes.

The Supreme Court of India has also described acid attacks as being more gruesome than murders and regarded them as uncivilized and heartless crimes and further held that the convicts of such crimes do not deserve any clemency. Therefore, this is the time to put a stop to these heinous attacks, for if there is leniency in granting punishment this time, more such attacks will follow.

(The author is a research scholar at the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi, pursuing masters in Constitutional Law. She also is a blogger. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)

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