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21 Mar 2017

Job reservation for acid attack victims remains undecided

The traumatic suffering of acid attack victims

Months after the Centre announced categorization of acid attack victims as 'disabled' to ensure them reservation in jobs, a notification on the matter still remains pending, with no specific deadline mentioned.

A reply on the Delhi Government's questions clarified the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities is working on it.

Meanwhile, the rate of such crimes has increased alarmingly, leaving victims without support.

In context

The traumatic suffering of acid attack victims
Government assistance to acid attack victims


Government assistance to acid attack victims

In 2013, the SC mandated Rs. 3L as compensation to victims of acid attacks. Earlier this year, an additional Rs. 1L was sanctioned.

The exact amount is decided by states in coordination with the Centre under Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which often leads to varying amounts in different states.

No private hospital can legally refuse treatment to such victims.


The psychology behind acid attacks

Acid attacks are rarely carried out with the intent to kill; the purpose is to force the victim to live a life of trauma, disfigurement and suffering.

In South Asia, where such crimes are common, the traditional orthodox mentality assumes women as the weaker sex, who are supposed to demurely accept demands of the men.

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Gender dynamics

The most common cause of acid attacks on women, majorly the victims, has been rejection of romantic advances. However, cases of professional rivalry and family conflicts have also come to light. Though male victims are much fewer, disputes are a frequent cause of men-on-men attacks.

Acid being sold openly despite stringent laws

Acid sale

Acid being sold openly despite stringent laws

Over-the-counter sale of acid is allowed only when the seller maintains a log of the customers and amount sold. Potential buyers have to furnish identity proof and purpose of purchase.

No one under the age of 18 can buy such substances.

However, the Delhi Commission for Women found in November 2016 that acid was being openly sold in shops despite an SC ban.

Legal challenges

'Acid attack' wasn't even a recognized crime till 2013

Till 2013, there was no separate provision for classifying acid attacks; they were recognized as violence against women. This hindered data collection and punishment.

Even after insertions of Sections 326A-326B in the IPC, availability of acid in the unorganized sector, where industries depend on such substances, remains unchecked.

Police are grossly understaffed to check the plethora of daily items containing acid beyond permissible limits.

The physical and mental agony for survivors


The physical and mental agony for survivors

An acid-attack survivor might need 50-60 curative and reconstructive surgeries, each costing Rs. 2-4L. The government mandated compensation of Rs. 3L is rarely enough to cover expenses.

Despite the government announcing one-third of the compensation is to be paid within 15 days of the incident, most have to wait months before getting the money, if at all.

Gaining employment is another uphill-battle for victims.

Steep surge in acid attacks since 2011

According to the Home Ministry, number of acid attacks increased from 57 in 2010, 83 in 2011, 85 in 2012, and 66 in 2013, to 309 in 2014. However, according to Acid Survivors Foundation, the figures range from 106 in 2011 to 802 in 2015.

Laxmi Saa

Laxmi Saa, acid attack survivor, fights for other victims

One of India's most well-known acid attack survivors is Laxmi Saa, who was attacked at 15 by a spurned lover twice her age.

She launched a fight for other victims, seeking stricter regulations and harsher punishments. Based on her PIL, acid attacks were made non-bailable.

She has since married, gave birth to a daughter, and walked the ramp at a London fashion show.

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