Arushi Mehta is a student of B.Sc Life Science. Apart from biology she has a strong inclination towards writing. She write fictions, poems and much more. She wants her voice to be heard and writing provides her that platform. She writes about inhuman acts as well and she scrutinizes the internet and newspapers to make her articles strong and justifiable.
Acid Attack: A devious act.
I am not treated as human. If I say NO, my face is burnt with acid, I am forced to drink acid, and while asleep they throw acid on me. Why can’t I go out without fear of getting damaged, distorted, and destroyed?
Acid throwing, also called an acid attack, a vitriol attack or vitriolage, is a form of violent assault defined as the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another “with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill”. Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The long term consequences of these attacks may include blindness, as well as permanent scarring of the face and body, along with far-reaching social, psychological, and economic difficulties.
How deeply it damages someone’s body.
The medical effects of acid attacks are extensive. As a majority of acid attacks are aimed at the face, several articles thoroughly reviewed the medical implications for these victims. The severity of the damage depends on the concentration of the acid and the time before the acid is thoroughly washed off with water or neutralized with a neutralizing agent. The acid can rapidly eat away skin, the layer of fat beneath the skin, and in some cases even the underlying bone. Eyelids and lips may be completely destroyed, the nose and ears severely damaged. Though not exhaustive, their findings included:
- The skull is partly destroyed/deformed and hair lost.
- Ear cartilage is usually partly or totally destroyed; deafness may occur.
- Eyelids may be burned off or deformed, leaving the eyes extremely dry and prone to blindness. Acid directly in the eye also damages sight, sometimes causing blindness in both eyes.
- The nose can become shrunken and deformed; the nostrils may close off completely due to destroyed cartilage.
- The mouth becomes shrunken and narrow, and it may lose its full range of motion. Sometimes, the lips may be partly or totally destroyed, exposing the teeth. Eating and speaking can become difficult.
- Scars can run down from the chin to neck area, shrinking the chin and extremely limiting range of motion in the neck.
- Inhalation of acid vapors usually creates respiratory problems, exacerbated restricted airways pathways (the esophagus and nostrils) in acid patients.
Story of Lalita (An Acid Attack Survivor)
‘Twenty-three-year-old Lalita Benbansi sits in the waiting room of a dimly lit doctor’s clinic in Grant Road, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Mumbai. She wears an indigo-dyed hospital gown and a thin shawl that does little to conceal her injuries. She is scheduled to undergo surgery on her nose the next day, scarred and swollen to twice its original size by an acid attack over two years ago.
With approximately 25 medical procedures behind her, Lalita is approaching the midway point of her treatment plan. Her doctor says she will need about 30 more to repair the damage, including recreating her ears, which the acid melted off. These are aimed only at restoring functionality and preventing infection; the question of cosmetic procedures remains a far-off uncertainty.
Lalita’s quick grin and ebullience dim as she describes the series of events that led to her attack.
In 2012, she and her mother travelled to her maternal village in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to attend the wedding of a relative. After a rowdy bout of drinking, a quarrel broke out within the family, particularly enraging an 18-year-old cousin of Lalita’s. A small disagreement quickly took on a much darker hue.
“I pushed a girl who my cousin had brought along to the wedding, and was refusing to pay a token auspicious amount at the altar. He took this as the final insult from my family and swore revenge,” she explains. Taunting her for the pride she took in her appearance, he threatened to throw acid on her. “At the time I thought it was just something said in the heat of the moment, but he actually made good on his threat,” she says, her voice still heavy with disbelief.
Five months later, on November 11, 2012, as Lalita and her mother were walking out to the fields to relieve themselves after dark, two men wearing masks approached her, tackled her to the ground and poured acid on her face while her mother watched, horrified. Lalita says she was able to recognise her cousin’s voice and his eyes when she shone a torch in his face.
Lalita was admitted to a local hospital for two months to treat her burns, but the family quickly ran out of savings. Lalita’s father Anand, who works as a petrol pump attendant in Mumbai, says with an air of defeat: “I make Rs 4,500 ($69) a month, out of which Rs 1,500 ($22) just goes on rent. How was I supposed to pay for such a long stay in hospital?”
After spending many months in despair at her grandmother’s house, without receiving any treatment for her grievous injuries, a relative convinced Lalita to return to Mumbai, where the acid survivors NGO Make Love Not Scars raised funds for further medical care.’
How is the Government helping combat acid attacks?
The Section 326 A in the Indian Penal Code lays down the punishment for acid throwing. The minimum punishment is 10 years imprisonment. It can extend up to life imprisonment with fine. A separate law to punish offenders in such cases was passed along with amendment of law on sexual offences.
ASFI purports to be the leading NGO in India for prevention of acid burn violence as well as for providing support services to survivors through a network of chapters and partners, by sharing knowledge, expertise and best practices. ASFI acts as a forum for advocacy of acid related causes, endeavours to promote a social environment conducive to elimination of all forms of gender violence and espouses a firm legal basis for prosecution of offenders and prescription of national guidelines for treatment, aftercare and rehabilitation of acid survivors.
There are other NGOs as well for the prevention of acid burn violence as well as providing support services to survivors.
How we can help combat acid attacks?
1. Be aware: Always be aware of people around you, especially if they are holding a cup or bottle, since acid is usually carried in a cup or bottle. Also be aware if a person is acting in a suspicious manner.
2. Don’t go out alone: Always try to go out with a friend or group of friends, since most attackers will probably want to attack a person when they are alone, as they may fear being caught or being recognized by other people. By going outdoors alone, the risk of an attack is higher. If you are with friends, usually the risk is lower. If you live in an area where acid attacks are common, use caution and always go out with a friend or friends.
3. Be aware of grudges: Keep in mind of any people who may be angry or upset with you, you should just be aware of this. Most acid attackers throw acid on someone they know. Just be aware of this, since most attackers know their victims, and usually they do this for revenge or simply because they are rejected. If you feel someone may be threatening to you, try to avoid them and if you see them on the street, avoid them completely and run if you have to. Scream for help if you feel threatened.
Opinions expressed are of the writer.