Strong anti-rape law for India as President Pranab clears the Bill #Vaw #Womenrights


 NEW DELHI, APRIL 3, 2013 | PTI

An anti-rape protester

An anti-rape protester
President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to the anti-rape bill which provides for life term and even death sentence for rape convicts besides stringent punishment for offences like acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism.Mukherjee accorded his assent to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill-2013 on Tuesday, brought against the backdrop of the country-wide outrage over Delhi gangrape , and it will now be called the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, an official release said on Wednesday.The law, passed by Lok Sabha (lower House of Indian Parliament) on March 19 and by Rajya Sabha (upper House of Indian Parliament) on March 21, has replaced an Ordinance promulgated on February 3.It amends various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

With an aim of providing a strong deterrent against crimes like rapes, the new law states that an offender can be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life, meaning imprisonment for the remainder of the convict’s natural life and with a fine.

It has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes.

The law, for the first time, defines stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time. Perpetrators of acid attack will attract a 10-year jail.

It also defines acid attack as a crime besides granting a victim the right to self-defence. It also has provisions for imposing a minimum 10-year jail term for perpetrators of such acts.

The law has fixed age for consensual sex at 18 years.

New sections to prevent stalking and voyeurism were introduced following a strong demand from women’s organisations.

The amendments seek to define and prescribe punishment for the offences of stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment.

The law also seeks to widen the definition of rape, broaden the ambit of aggravated rape and enhance the punishment for such crimes.

It also provides that all hospitals shall immediately provide first aid and/or medical treatment free of cost to the victims of acid attack or rape, and failure to do so will attract punishment.

It has provisions for a minimum imprisonment of seven years which may extend to imprisonment for natural life, and a fine for rape convict if he is found to be a police officer, a public servant, armed forces personnel or management or hospital staff.

The law also seeks to amend the Indian Evidence Act to allow a rape victim, if she is temporarily or permanently mentally or physically disabled, to record her statement before a judicial magistrate with the assistance of an interpreter or a special educator. It also has provisions to video-graph the proceedings.

 

#India- Four sisters injured in #acidattack #Vaw #WTFnews


acid-victim-670

An acid attack left four sisters in northIndia with burns, police said Wednesday, in a particularly brutal example of what is a growing problem in South Asia.

The youngest sister, 19, was admitted to hospital with severe injuries after two men on a motorbike splashed them with acid on Tuesday evening in the Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the capital.

The sisters, aged between 19 and 24, were returning home from a government school where three of them work as teachers. The fourth is a student.

“The victims were walking together when two men on a motorbike made lewd remarks and the man who was riding pillion splashed acid on all of them,” Abdul Hameed, the senior police officer investigating the case, told AFP.

“The youngest sister suffered maximum burn injuries and she had to be rushed to a hospital in Delhi.”

Hameed said no arrests had been made and the motive behind the crime was unclear.

Attacks on women have topped the national agenda since December 2012 when a medical student was assaulted and raped by six men on a moving bus in Delhi. She died two weeks later of her injuries.

Public anger prompted parliament to toughen sex offence laws including doubling the minimum prison sentence for gang-rape to 20 years, but lawmakers voted against increasing the punishment for acid attackers.

They can be jailed for eight to 12 years depending on the injuries inflicted, but the offence is bailable.

Campaign group Stop Acid Attacks accused the government of ignoring the growing trend of such assaults which are often perpetrated by jilted men or their relatives.

It has called for India to regulate the sale of an acid called “Tezaab” which is designed to clean rusted tools but is commonly used in attacks.

“Acid has become the cheapest and most effective tool for men to attack women in India,” said activist and victim Archana Kumari, who hails from northern Uttar Pradesh state where Tuesday’s attack took place.

“Why is the government not stopping the sale of acid? Why are they supporting a weapon that has the power to kill and ruin a woman’s life?” she said.

According to the London-based charity Acid Survivors Trust International, about 1,500 acid attacks are reported globally each year.

But many more victims do not report their injuries to the authorities and instead suffer in silence.

In 2011, neighbouring Pakistan adopted legislation increasing the punishment to between 14 years and life for acid attacks and a minimum fine of one million Pakistan rupees ($10,200).

 

#India- Acid Is Not the Answer to Anything #Vaw #acidattacks


ACID

 

  S. Senthair EPW

The deaths of two young women in Tamil Nadu in February following acid attacks on them once again draw attention to the urgent need for measures to prevent this heinous crime and the need for punishment that will deter other males from seeing a bottle of acid as the balm for their wounded pride.

S Senthalir (senthalir83@gmail.com) is a Bangalore-based independent journalist.

On 24 February 2013, while All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party members burst crackers and distributed sweets to celebrate the 65th birthday of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, 20-year-old Vidya breathed her last at Kilpauk Medical College Hospital (KMCH) in Chennai.

The victim of an acid attack, Vidya succumbed to burn injuries in the early hours, just days after 23-year-old Vinodhini, who suffered 40% burns in an acid attack and battled for her life for three months, died on 13 February 2013. With 38% burns and without proper first aid, Vidya was taken to KMCH after a delay of four hours on 30 January 2013. Her family, which had to fend for itself, was at the mercy of the hospital staff and management. The victim was admitted to the general burns ward and remained there for 17 days. It was only when her condition worsened on the 18th day that she was moved to the intensive care unit (ICU).

Even after Vidya died, her family had to wait for nearly four hours for the doctors to permit them to fulfil her last wish of donating her eyes. Annoyed by the government’s neglect, her family demanded that the hospital management explain why she had died. After the postmortem, they refused to accept her body till late in the afternoon, wanting the health minister and secretary to visit the hospital. They accused the hospital of not providing the treatment an acid attack victim required and sought an explanation for the government’s callousness. Their pleas went unheard. Neither the health and family welfare minister nor any official from the departments concerned visited the hospital to console the family that lost its only daughter to horrendous gender violence.

KMCH alone treats four to six acid attack cases every year and almost all the victims are young women. The hospital’s doctors say there has been an increase in the number of cases in the past few years. The media has reported 27 acid attacks on women in Tamil Nadu since 2001.

Lack of Awareness

Regardless of this, there is no widespread awareness of the first aid to be administered to acid attack victims. Acid is a corrosive liquid that has the potential to seep deep into the skin and damage muscles, blood vessels, and bones. Burns experts and plastic surgeons point out that the injured part should be bathed in cool running water for at least 15 minutes so that the acid is diluted and washed away. Three hours after the first aid, depending on the part that has been injured, the affected layers of skin have to be removed.

But not many doctors or hospitals are aware of this. Vidya’s brother Vijay said that no water was poured on her immediately after the attack, and she was covered with a cloth and taken to a nearby private hospital, where the doctors did not know what had to be done. They cleaned the wounds and applied some ointment.

The 2011 “Combating Acid Violence in Bangladesh, India and Cambodia” report by the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School, the Committee on International Human Rights of the New York City Bar Association, the Cornell Law School International Human Rights Clinic, and the Virtue Foundation says that acid attack victims in India receive unacceptable treatment in government hospitals and it could be attributed in part to a lack of facilities. It notes,

Most government hospitals in India do not have plastic surgeons or medical facilities to conduct necessary procedures for acid survivors. In addition, there is a shortage of plastic surgeons in the country. According to medical experts, there are only around 2,500 plastic surgeons in the country of one billion people. Even if there were more trained professionals, hospitals do not have facilities and equipment to support them.

On the other hand, there have been no efforts by the government, including the various state women’s commissions and the Ministry of Women and Child Development, to curb acid attacks on women. The National Commission for Women had in 2009 proposed a Scheme for Relief and Rehabilitation of Offences (by Acids) on Women and Children, which emphasised disbursing Rs 50,000 for a victim’s treatment immediately after an acid attack. Depending on the nature of injuries and the treatment required, this could go up to Rs 25 lakh. Besides, the family or legal heir would be entitled to a compensation of Rs 2 lakh. But none of these provisions have been implemented.

While Vinodhini received a compensation of Rs 3 lakh from the prime minister’s relief fund and Rs 2 lakh from the Pondicherry government two months after the attack, Vidya’s family did not receive any compensation from any official source till her death. All that they got was the Corporation of Chennai mayor sympathetically saying Vidya’s case was an unfortunate incident, and callousness from the women’s commission, health ministry, and ministry of women and child development. Acid attacks on women did not figure in the state government’s statistics on crimes against women as late as September 2012. There is no record to indicate how many women have been victims of acid attacks in the state.

Changes in Law

The accused in both cases are in jail and have expressed no regret for their inhuman act. It was only on 3 February 2013 that the Criminal Law (Amendment) 2013 promulgated by the president of India inserted Sections 326(A) and 326(B) in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to deal with acid attacks. Section 326(A) states that

whoever causes permanent or partial damage or deformity to, or burns or maims or disfigures or disables, any part or parts of the body of a person or causes grievous hurt by throwing acid on or by administering acid to that person, or by using any other means with the intention of causing or with the knowledge that he is likely to cause such injury or hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than 10 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and with fine which may extend to Rs 10 lakh. Provided that any fine imposed under this section shall be given to the person on whom acid was thrown or to whom acid was administered.

Section 326(B) declares that

whoever throws or attempts to throw acid on any person or attempts to administer acid to any person, or attempts to use any other means, with the intention of causing permanent or partial damage or deformity or burns or maiming or disfigurement or disability or grievous hurt to that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Ignorant of the new ordinance, police officers initially charged the accused in both cases under Section 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC, and after the women’s deaths, with murder under Section 302. This has tended to be the general practice in acid attack cases on women. However, under Sections 307 and 302, the prosecution has to prove that the accused threw the acid on a victim in an attempt, or with an intention, to kill her. According to a report by the Campaign and Struggle against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAW), a Bangalore-based forum, this is often difficult to prove, and the accused walks away scot-free. It would therefore be more appropriate to book these cases under Section 326(A) along with Section 302. The families of the victims could claim compensation from the accused under Section 326(A).

Easy Availability of Acid

Studies have shown that the easy availability of acid is one of the main reasons for the increasing number of acid attacks on women. Bangladesh is the only country in the region that has enacted specific laws to not only criminalise acid attacks, but also control the easy availability of acid – the Acid Crime Control Act and Acid Control Act of 2002. Besides, business users of acid are required to obtain licences.

Harsher punishment for perpetrators, coupled with a sustained campaign in the media and other efforts by the CSAAW, have proved to be a deterrent in Karnataka. A report by the forum states that there have been 80 cases of acid attacks on women in Karnataka since 1999. After a judge imposed a life sentence on a man found guilty in an acid attack case in 2006, there has been a sharp decrease in such attacks. The report states that 15 to 20 cases of acid attacks on women were reported every year before 2006, but this fell to four to five cases a year after the court’s verdict.

Acid attacks cause death or permanent damage to victims, and untold suffering to them and their family members. Those who do not die suffer for the rest of their lives, unable to take care of themselves or afford proper treatment. Fact-finding conducted by the CSAAW in Karnataka and the “Combating Acid Violence in Bangladesh, India and Cambodia” report indicate that there has been an alarming increase in acid attacks on women who assert their independence by declining marriage proposals or refusing to act in accordance with the way male-dominated societies want them to.

What will happen to the families who have lost their women to this gender-related violence that punishes women who transgress their traditional roles? Will the legislation appropriately punish the perpetrators and deter others from reaching out for a bottle of acid? Will the government or society at large take the responsibility of putting an end to this sexual violence against women?

Let the deaths of Vinodhini and Vidya not be in vain.

 

 

Press Club Mumbai condemns the acid attack on Tarun Bharat reporter


Press Club Mumbai condemns the acid attack on Tarun Bharat reporter

The Press Club Mumbai strongly condemns the dastardly attack on Dinesh
Choudhary (40), his wife Arsana and teenage daughter Rashmi in Purna town of
Parbhani district in Maharashtra.

Mr. Choudhary is a reporter with the Tarun Bharat. He was attacked with acid
on Tuesday late night when he was at his home. In the acid attack he and his
wife and daughter got injured. The assailants ran away after throwing acid
on them.

The attackers are believed to be connected with the ruling political party
and one of them is President of Purna taluka Congress. Choudhary had been
writing against Guthka Mafia for his newspaper Tarun Bharat (Sholapur).
Guthka is banned in the state of Maharashtra.

We request Shri R R Patil, state home minister to take stern action against
the assailants and conspirators howsoever influential he is. The increasing
number of attacks on journalists in Maharashtra is a matter of serious
concern. These attacks are aimed to silence journalists from performing
their professional duties.

Thanks & regards,

Secretary
Press Club Mumbai

March 14, 2013

 

#Pakistan -Sindh Assembly passes domestic violence bill #goodnews


| 8th March, 2013
0

— File Photo

Sindh PA adopts bill to end domestic violence

From the Newspaper, Dawn  | | 9th March, 2013

KARACHI, March 8: Women lawmakers in the Sindh Assembly on Friday gave a standing ovation to the house when the long-awaited bill against domestic violence was tabled and after brief speeches by legislators was unanimously passed on the 103rd anniversary of International Women’s Day.

Pakistan People’s Party lawmakers described the bill as an achievement of the house according to the vision of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto while Muttahida Qaumi Movement legislators termed it an important step to check violence against women that has always been highlighted by Altaf Hussain.

Under the bill, titled “The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2013”, anyone indulging in violence against vulnerable sections of society, women in particular, would be liable to be sentenced to one year in prison and a Rs20,000 fine.

Sardar Nadir Magsi appeared most vocal about women rights when he said he was in favour of having more severe laws in this regard. He added that violence against women in any form, including Karo-kari, was not restricted to villages but was common in cities as well.

Senior minister Pir Mazharul Haq said credit for piloting the long-awaited bill went to the PPP that had also initiated programmes such as the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Income Support Programme for empowerment of women.

However, he said, the bill was not restricted to women but also related to every individual of this society.

Nuzhat Pathan said if all people became like Nadir Magsi, there would be no need for such laws.

Naheed Begum in her brief speech raised the issue of the law’s implementation, citing that women lacked awareness about how to invoke the law to benefit from it.

Syed Sardar Ahmad said everyone ought to stand in support of the oppressed and it was rightly mentioned in the law that domestic violence includes all acts of gender-based physical or psychological abuse committed by people against women, children or other vulnerable persons.

Law Minister Ayaz Soomro, who piloted the bill, highlighting the need for a separate bill said laws in this regard did exist in the penal code but there was question of their implementation that warranted enactment of this special law to control domestic violence.

After the bill was passed, two resolutions with reference to commemoration of women’s day were read out by Farheen Moghul and Heer Soho, respectively. When put to the house, both were adopted unanimously.

The resolutions pay tribute to the dynamic women of Pakistan and resolve to further the struggle to establish a just and equitable environment for sustainable development of Pakistan.

After the adoption of the resolution, Speaker Nisar Ahmad Khuhro adjourned the session till Monday at 10am.

Earlier when the house was called to order at 11.40am, reports on biannual monitoring on the implementation of the National Finance Commission award for the period from January-June 2011 and July-December 2011 were presented.

Another bill passed on Friday was related to changes in the names of certain positions in local government institutions.

The law minister, who piloted the Sindh Laws (Second Amendment) Bill (bill No 6 of 2012), speaking on its general principles said the title of positions in local government institutions was changed by the amendment bill. He explained that the title of district officer was replaced with collector, executive district officer with commissioner and district coordination officer with district officer.

The Sindh Tenancy (Amendment) Bill — bill 18 of 2013 — was introduced, but its consideration was deferred till Monday.

The introduction and consideration of the bill 20 of 2013 was also deferred to Monday along with consideration of the government bill 17 of 2013 pertaining to the Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Human Research and Development Board.

 

Tamil Nadu to regulate sale of acid to curb attacks on women #Vaw #Womensday #goodnews


 

Reported by Sam Daniel, Edited by Sabyasachi Dasgupta | Updated: March 08, 2013 , NDTV

 Tamil Nadu to regulate sale of acid to curb attacks on women
ChennaiTamil Nadu would soon be the first state to regulate sale of acid across the counter in an effort to stop acid attacks against women. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has announced that the state would pass an ordinance to regulate sale of acid.The move comes after the death of two women who were targets of acid attack which once again triggered calls for checking easy availability of acid.

21-year-old Vidya was targeted after she refused to elope with the man her family had agreed to give her hand to. The man threw acid on her while she was alone at her workplace in Chennai. Another young woman, Vinothini – an IT professional from Puducherry, also died recently after the man she refused to marry threw acid on her.

Despite the move by the state govt, the families of these victims also want punishment against the attackers. Vidya’s mother J Saraswathi told NDTV, “Whatever crime they commit, they should suffer the same, only then they would realise the mistake.”

Ms P D’Souza, a govt official, welcomes the move. She told NDTV, “I think sale of acid should be regulated. The purpose of purchase should be checked. The moment they think of buying acid they should remember what would be the aftermath.”

Centre’s National Crime Records Bureau has no statistics on acid victims. Some estimates suggest there could be at least 100 acid attacks on women every year. Experts say the government should also strive for a change in mindset towards women.

R Geetha, an advisor to Women’s Rights Movement, told NDTV, “Today women are looked upon as sex objects. They’ve to be looked at as individuals.”

Ms D’Souza said, “It should start right at our homes; if parents stop discriminating boys and girls and demonstrate respect for women, the mindset of boys would change.”

 

#India- All-Women Bank is A Non-Solution #Budget2013 #Womenrights


FEBRUARY 28, 2013
Kavita Krishnan

kavita Krishnan

Kavita Krishnan is secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association.

She can be contacted at Kavitakrish73@gmail.com

Women’s Safety and Welfare Need Adequate Budgetary Allocations,

Not Hollow and Cynical Gestures

The Govt Takes Nirbhaya’s Name, Why Hasn’t It Provided Budgetary Backing for the Rehabilitation and Medical Care of All Rape and Acid Attack Survivors?

The Finance Minister’s Budget speech made several references to women. But since these have not been backed by sufficient allocations in the required areas, these references appear to be mere token and hollow gestures.

The ‘Nirbhaya fund’ is the most glaring instance of this. In the case of Nirbhaya (the Delhi gang-rape braveheart), the Government had responded to the public outcry by taking over all the medical costs of Nirbhaya. The Congress party leaders had even offered a flat to her family members. The Budget was the Government’s chance to show that these were not mere ‘charity’ gestures in one single case. In fact, the Government ought to show that it owns responsibility for the safety of all women, by providing every single survivor of rape or acid attacks with state-funded rehabilitation and medical care. The 1000 crore Nirbhaya fund, a mere corpus fund rather than a Budgetary allocation, is as of now far from adequate for covering the rehabilitation and medical costs of survivors of gender violence. In Haryana, dalit rape survivors have been forced to relocate away from their village, and the Government has ignored their demands for rehabilitation costs. Acid attack survivors and grievously injured rape survivors (as in Nirbhaya’s case) often have to travel for specialized medical care such as burns units, plastic surgery, and certain operations. Such travel costs ought to be covered by the Government also. For the Government to cynically use Nirbhaya’s name for a fund that fails to offer a guarantee of support for all survivors of gender violence, is shameful. The Rs 200 crore that has been allocated to the WCD Ministry is again, inadequate as well as vague as to its purpose.

Legislations against violence faced by women (such as the Domestic Violence Act and laws against sexual violence) need to be backed by budgetary allocations. The Budget should also have announced specific allocations for safe houses and shelters for women who face domestic violence, incest, and for homeless women. There are any number of instances where girls and women facing incest are forced to continue to stay in the same house as their molester, for want of a safe shelter. Homeless women remain ever-vulnerable to violence on the streets. And the few existing shelters are so harsh in their conditions that women commonly refer to many of them as ‘women’s jails.’

One can compare these amounts (1000 crore, 200 crore) with the Budget’s statement of revenues foregone. The Budget promises to forego revenues to the tune of 68007.6 crore on corporate taxpayers (defined by the Government as prioritised tax payers) for the year 2012-13; in 2011-12 this amount was 61765.3 crore. If the Government can write off taxes to the tune of between 60-70000 crore every year for super-rich corporations as ‘incentives’, why is it that women’s safety is not seen as a similar priority by the Government?

The Finance Minister’s announcement of a public sector women’s bank is rather mystifying. Why can’t existing public sector banks offer affordable institutional loans to women? By creating a women’s bank (whose purpose is as yet unclear), are existing banks being absolved of their responsibilities to women? Like the SHGs (which leave women debtors at the mercy of the micro-finance institutions), the women-only banks might end up being projected as the highly inadequate and misplaced ‘substitute’ for institutional bank-support for women.

The Government should, in addition, have announced allocations to ensure more judges and courts (to ensure speedier trials); forensic investigations facilities all over the country, and primary health care centres in every village, specially equipped to deal with diagnostics and care for women.

Kavita Krishnan,

Secretary, AIPWA

On behalf of the ongoing Bekhauf Azadi campaign against sexual violence

 

Join People’s Watch Over Parliament Demanding Implementation of Verma Report @21Feb


1st Day of the Budget Session

 

21 February, Thursday, 12 Noon,

 

Jantar Mantar,

 

 Join PEOPLE’S WATCH OVER PARLIAMENT  

  • NO to Eyewash Ordinance !
  • For An Effective Law Against Sexual Violence Based on Justice Verma Recommendations !!
  • Budgetary Allocations for Rape Crisis Centres, Safe Houses for Women, More judges and courts, Forensic Examination facilities, compensations for survivors of rape and acid attacks, etc 
Speakers and Cultural Performances:
Shabana Azmi, Vrinda Grover, Madhu Mehra, Nilanjana Roy, Gautam Bhan, Rebecca John, Binalakshmi Nepram, Karuna Nundy, Kamal Chenoy, Maitreyee Pushpa, Anand Pradhan, Bimol Akoijam, and many other scholars, activists of the women’s and students’ movement and the JNUSU.
Street play called ‘Bekhauf Azaadi’ by Hirawal from Patna;
Performance by Maya Krishna Rao

Play by Asmita Theatre Group
Manzil Mystic Band
Mandala Circle (Lokesh Jain)
Artists Creative Theatre from Manipur
P
oster exhibitions on the theme of women’s and people’s freedom 
 

Freedom Without Fear- Bekhauf Azadi,

Campaign Against Sexual Violence and Gender Discrimination

Contact:  9560756628, 9868383692 ,  9868033425 ,  9213974505

 

 

#Mumbai #acidattack: Why me? is the question that bothers Aryanka everyday #Vaw


Published: Thursday, Dec 20, 2012,
By Sunchika B Pandey | Place:  Mumbai, DNA

>Jerrit G John, 46, flung a chemical on his girlfriend Aryanka Hosbetka on November 7, 2012.“I still ask myself every day, why me?” says physiotherapist Aryanka Hosbetkar in her first candid interview after her boyfriend Jerrit G John, 46,flung a chemical on her on November 7. “I am yet to find out why someone would want to scar me for life. Because I found out his fault and decided to move on and live my life on my terms? Why is a woman, who has found out that her man is two-timing her, expected to forget and forgive?” asks Hosbetkar. “I trusted him, but he did not think twice before scarring me for life by ruining my face. What would I be without my face.”Hosbetkar’s biggest concern is her mother, who as a single parent after her father’s deathdid her best to bring her up. “The people, who lauded her as a single parent, are now pointing fingers at us,” says Hosbetkar, adding that she hopes to lessen her mother’s burden, especially financially, as she is completely dependent on her.“I have lost faith in humanity, especially men. I am just 25. I had just started earning and living my life. Now, my career has come to a standstill as my eyes are yet to heal. I will have to start from scratch, and that too only if my mother is confident again to let me step out of home,” laments Hosbetkar.

The Worli resident had met John, who runs a production house, 10 months ago when he had joined her cycling group. Soon, they started seeing each other. The father of a five-year-old son, John had told Hosbetkar that he was in an unhappy marriage and would soon seek a divorce. But four months ago, she had found out that he was cheating on her with another woman, who lives in Borivli. John had reportedly threatened Hosbetkar on several occasions before attacking her on November 7.

Hosbetkar laments that her misfortunes did not end on the day of the incident. Now, she has tovisit the police station, hospital and lawyers regularly for follow-ups. “But I have taken the right stand and any woman in such a situation should do the same,” she insists.

 

#India- #Acid attacks: the warped face of love #Vaw


Illustration: Rishabh Arora

It was probably just another day for techie J Vinodini as she walked home in Karaikal in South India at 10.30 pm on November 14 with a friend. Seconds later, life as she knew it would change irrevocably. A crazed stalker, a construction worker she had turned down and who had been stalking her since, accosted her and flung acid into her face.

She lies in hospital, with 40 percent burns, “severe burns to the head, chest, hands and stomach,” according to the news report. Apart from the disfigurement, she has also lost vision in both eyes. Numerous surgeries will be needed to reconstruct her face to some semblance of what it was before the attack. When acid hits the skin, the initial sensation is that of icy coldness. An instant later, the burning begins as it eats through skin, cartilage, hair, and even bone, depending on the concentration. Within seconds, the acid can burn and destroy body tissues on contact. Skin, hair, cartilage and bones dissolve, the nose becomes a hole, the vapours burn the respiratory and the digestive tracts, fingers get fused together, gaping holes can remain where eyes once were and the ears get damaged. The lungs can fill up with fluid which can often be fatal.

If a victim survives, she spends a lifetime undergoing reconstructive surgeries, being a social recluse with loss of vision and also, because of her appearance, loss of a normal life with a family and a job. I say ‘she’ because a majority of acid attack victims are women. The incidents seem to be on the increase. In Mumbai, my city, in January this year, IT firm employee Aarti Thakur was attacked by a person, hired by her spurned lover, who flung acid at her in public at the Goregaon railway station, burning her face, chest and arms. Shockingly, this was not the first time she had been attacked. Her face had been slashed by attackers on two previous incidents.

In early November this year, filmmaker Jerrit John went to physiotherapist Aryanka Hosbetkar’s home and flung a chemical into her face in the presence of her friends and mother. It was not the first time he had attacked her either, according to newspaper reports. In a previous incident, he had caught her head and banged it against a wall. She had refused to file a complaint against him because she was terrified of his temper. Jerrit was finally apprehended in a lodge on the outskirts of Mumbai. He stated after being arrested, “I wanted to destroy her future.” What shocked everyone, was that this was “someone like us, someone I knew,” as a friend stated, in disbelief.

Someone like us; not someone from a socio-economic section distinct from us, the educated middle class, as the popular perception goes. Someone like us; someone we knew. Arti Shrivastav was attacked by the District Collector’s son, Abhinav Misra, in January 2000, when she was just 18. In 2009, Abhinav was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment with a Rs 5 lakh fine. In 2011, he was out on bail. He went on to do his MBA, got married and had a family. A district collector’s son: someone like us. A boy from a decent family with educated parents.

Shirin Juwaley, founder of the NGO Palash, was attacked by her own husband – someone like us. There isn’t a particular type of attacker but there is one kind of victim: a woman, a girl. More often than not, a girl who has rejected sexual advances, declarations of love, who refuses to get into a relationship with the perpetrator, who has turned down an offer of marriage. A woman who must be put in her place, a girl who would never be able to get married or lead a normal life because she had the temerity to reject the perpetrator.

Sonali Mukherjee, an acid attack victim from Jharkhand, recently brought the topic into the limelight when she demanded justice or be permitted to end her life. Her case was taken up by the media and reconstructive surgery was offered to her. She had been through as many as 22 surgeries in the nine years since the attack and this was the first of many surgeries she would now undergo at a multi specialty hospital in a bid to get a face as close to normal as possible. Not only did Sonali lose her face in the acid attack that happened when she was barely 17, she also lost her vision. Her crime? She rejected the sexual advances of the perpetrators.

Acid attacks are not just used as a weapon of revenge by obsessive or jilted lovers; they’re also, more horrifically, being used as social controls to make women adhere to a code of conduct decreed by the self declared custodians of our morals. In August this year, posters from an organisation called the Jharkhand Mukti Sangh warned college girls of acid attacks if they wore jeans and tops. Also in August, a pro-Al-Qaeda group in Kashmir pinned notices in mosques in Shopian district warning women that their faces would be disfigured with acid if they were seen unveiled in public.

Interestingly, for the first time ever, acid attacks have got a standalone provision under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The proposal is that two sections — 326A (hurt by acid attack) and 326B (attempt to throw or administer acid) — be added to the IPC Section 326. This is a non-bailable offence. If this law is passed, the attacker could be jailed for anything between 10 years to life with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs under Section 326 A (with the fine being given to the victim) and from five to seven years imprisonment with a fine for imprisonment under Section 326B. Acid attacks had no separate law so far. The sale of acid, even more horrifically, is still unregulated, with no checks in place. Anyone intending to disfigure someone’s face can procure a bottle of acid from the local kirana store. Anyone who had committed an acid attack could get out on bail and lead a regular life.

There are no exact statistics available for the number of acid attacks annually in India, none that I could find despite extensive googling. All I found was this: “There is no official statistics for India, but a study conducted by Cornell University in January 2011 said there were 153 attacks reported in the media from 1999 to 2010.” These are women who are not even a statistic, women whose lives, dreams, hopes and aspirations have melted away with their flesh, who are condemned to live lives worse than death.

We could learn from Bangladesh which introduced the death penalty for acid attacks in 2002, along with strict laws controlling the storage, transport and sale of acids. And most importantly, we need to bring up our boys to realise that women are not commodities, to learn to accept rejection, to know that they have no right to disfigure a woman in a warped display of “if I can’t have her, no one else will” or to “teach her a lesson.” The only lesson here is that a young girl’s life can be ruined for as little as a few rupees and that ruin, is a blot on our collective conscience.

- Kiran Mnaral – (The views expressed in this column are the writer’s own)