Report No. 226
Social and Economic Conseqeunces
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.
It has therefore been argued that acid attacks need to be classified as a separate offence and harsher punishment needs to be prescribed. It has been further stated that the new law must include guidelines for handling/supporting victims economically, socially, and psychologically as well as compensation.
It is relevant to mention that in 2006 CSAAAW filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Karnataka High Court seeking a court order to the State Government to ensure speedy and gender-sensitive trials for victims of acid attacks as well as better medical treatment and rehabilitation. The CSAAAW also demanded the production, distribution and storage of toxic acids be strictly monitored by the State.1
In fact since acid is so readily available across the counter in medical and other stores, acid attacks become a relatively cheap and effective way of committing acts of violence against women. In a random check carried out by The Hindu newspaper in Karnataka in 2007, the researchers found that buying "Hydrochloric acid is as easy as cheap as buying a bar of soap." A litre of acid goes at anywhere between Rs. 16 and Rs. 25 and can be bought at various locations including Nagaratpet, Ragipet and Raja Market.1
There is however no law to regulate acid sales except for the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989 (amended in 2000) and this only applies to industrial situations.1 Furthermore there are no regular inspections and stock checking for acid sales as there are for explosives.1
It has been argued by some that controlling or regulating acid sales is an impossible task, as acid is used for many things including car batteries etc. Thus, the deterrence should come in the form of stringent laws that punish the perpetrators. However, Bangladesh, a country with the highest incident rate of acid attacks, has passed a law in 2002 to control acid sales.
Thus, Acid violence can be tackled on both fronts simultaneously with a harsher punishment on the perpetrator as well controlling the sale of acid to stop it from getting into the hands of the criminal. Besides as a member CSAAAW perhaps rightly said, it is unconscionable "how any responsible democracy can cite difficulty in regulation as an excuse for not framing laws."1
1. The Hindu, Acid Attack victims yet to get assistance, 27.04.2007.
International commerce of sulphuric acid is controlled under the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988, which lists sulfuric acid under Table II of the convention as a chemical frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.
The next chapter therefore discusses how the courts in India have dealt with the issue of acid attacks and what the cases show.