FlippED is An ED Original Style wherein two bloggers come together to share their opposing or orthogonal perspectives on an interesting subject.
Acid attacks continue to shake our conscience time and again as we hear the appalling stories of survivors. It has been counted among the worst form of harm that can be caused to one human by another. Apart from the physical and emotional destabilization, it also leads to loss of job and income opportunities. Families trying to deal with recovery costs are driven to bankruptcy.
The saddest part here is that the causes of such crimes are as trivial as it can get. Perhaps somebody raised their voice against harassment or somebody simply rejected a lover, this becomes the story of them falling victim to an acid attack.
But the question remains as to why is the weapon, that is the acid here, remains so easily accessible to the common angry Indian man. The Indian Penal Code in 2013 modified itself to accommodate regulations in the sale of acid. Yet its implementation is not transparent.
The debate regarding the sale of acid still holds valid as these attacks continue to mutilate innocent women.
“I strongly believe that the sale of acid MUST be Banned”
India has come a long way in terms of technology and economic growth, but when it comes to the overall attitude of society towards women, we still have a long, long way to go.
Women are still treated as inferior to men in many circles, and this mindset translates to women being objectified, treated like men have the “right” to “get” any woman they want.
This basic lack of respect for other human beings is where the trouble begins. It leads to destructive acts where the jilted party attempts to “ruin the life” of the jilter– most often by throwing acid on her face, causing her unimaginable physical, mental and emotional trauma.
I strongly believe that the sale of acid MUST be banned or at least regulated. Acid attacks are one of the most common crimes against women in India, simply because acid is very easily available at every other grocery store (for hygiene purposes such as intense cleaning in homes) in the country, at a very cheap price.
However, considering how this household product has such tremendous potential to be used as a deadly weapon, I am of the opinion that merchants must not be allowed to sell it freely and without any reservations.
It would be ideal to ban the sale of acid altogether, but since that is highly unlikely to happen anytime soon, we can at least rally for some checks and measures to be put into place, so as to assure that a bottle of acid does not fall into the wrong hands.
No precaution is ever foolproof, but if some are there, perhaps a few women can be saved from undergoing terrible trauma that they do not deserve.
Shops can ask for valid ID proof of the person requesting to purchase acid, and also keep a copy of the same, so that the buyer will think twice before using it destructively.
Shops can also insist that the buyer (if male) is accompanied by at least one woman while purchasing acid. Hopefully, this measure will play a psychological role on the buyer.
The price of acid can also be significantly increased so that it is not easily accessible.
A higher retail price on several basic goods like for instance, sanitary napkins, has assured that they are not easily accessible to several women who live below a certain income level in India, leading to their looking for cheaper substitutes.
Applying this same principle to acid, it would reduce the sale of acid itself if the price is hiked up. It would also be beneficial if multinational companies selling mild cleaning agents would follow the example of several shampoo companies and sell them by the sachet, for a few rupees each, increasing their worth than acid, and thus, becoming the logical alternative for a cleaning solution.
It is of prime importance that the sale of acid is regulated because acid burns are not like a wound that can be stitched up and healed. Acid literally melts the skin, destroys tissue, and some victims have even lost their vision on coming into contact with acid. It is a terrible fate that no one deserves.
“Many murders are committed with a knife, but knives cannot be banned, can they?”
To stop any kind of criminal activity, the banning of a weapon (as the acid is here) is not the solution. If the criminal cannot put his hands on acid, he will certainly find other ways to cause harm. For instance, many murders are committed with a knife, but knives cannot be banned, can they?
We cannot stop the retail sale of acids as they are used by many industries for manufacturing fertilizers, batteries and so on. Instead, properly licensed outlets where acid is sold must be set up.
It is a very sorry state of affairs that acid is easily available for prices as low as Rs. 18 at the roadside vendors on the pretext of household cleaning purposes. Small shopkeepers insist on using strong acid for bathroom cleaning and not products like Harpic that contain acids at a minimized and diluted level.
This accessibility has to be reduced (not banned, I feel) and raised to availability at only certified stores at a standard price.
Stringent punishments to the criminal will help to instill fear in people’s minds. In Columbia, the attack on Natalia Ponce De Leon in 2014 brought in shock and horror. Within 2 years of the attack, Columbia passed a law named after her, making the penalty for acid attacks comparable to that of homicide.
Tougher punishment (Bangladesh has up to capital punishment for acid violence) and fast track courts dedicated for trying these cases need to be set up.
Most victims lose the motivation to pursue the fight after the initial months pass as the irreversibility of their condition become apparent to them. Hopelessness and depression sinks in replacing anger and motivation for justice, lowering further the rate of prosecution and conviction of assailants.
Other than that, spreading awareness and educating people from the preliminary level about the atrocity of an acid attack will work wonders, I feel. The unorganized sector with its large migrant and rural population have access to a variety of acids depending on the industry, for example, the gem and jewellery business. They are hard to track and censor and therefore need to be targeted through awareness campaigns.
The organized sector – fertilizer and other heavy industries – are mostly under a regimented control system, so leakage or misappropriation is not too common.
From these two contrasting opinions, one thing is clear- the sale of the acid itself is so prevalent all over India (when compared to less corrosive cleaning agents like Harpic and Lizol, to name a few) because it’s cheap. India is a country where over 50% of the population lives below the poverty line, and so, acquiring basic goods at the cheapest possible price is of premium importance.
But whether the solving of this problem of violence against women can be solved by some economic maneuvering is something that is still open to debate.