#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)

 

#India – #Chennai- #acidattack victim seek funds for treatment #Vaw #mustshare


By , TNN | Dec 6, 2012, 04.33 AM IST

CHENNAI: A team of doctors at the Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital (KMCH) performed a surgery on the eyelids of software engineer J Vinodhini who was attacked with acid by construction worker Suresh, who had stalked her for months.

Doctors say she has lost vision in both eyes. Her family has started raising funds through donations for her treatment. They have opened a bank account and requested donors to deposit even meagre amounts to help her.

KMCH burns ward chief Dr V Jayaraman said, “A team of doctors performed the surgery on her eyelids on Tuesday. We will take the skin from her thighs to reconstruct the burnt skin of her face.”

Vinodhini was admitted to KMCH with 38% burns all over her body. “We have the facilities to reconstruct and do cosmetic surgery for her face and other body parts. We will perform the surgeries in a phased manner,” Dr Jayaraman added.

Vinodhini’s father V Jayabalan, a security guard at a private school in Karaikudi, requested the public to help him raise funds for her treatment. Jayabalan has opened an account with Indian Bank branch in Kilpauk.

People can deposit the money directly to savings bank account no. 603 899 558 in the name of V Jayabalan. The bank’s IFSC number is IDIB000K037, and the swift code is IDIBINBBTSY. The swift account number is 358 202 118 001. People can also call the branch chief manager on +91-9444391018 if they have queries. 

A police officer said Suresh attacked Vinodhini on November 14 when she was walking with a friend in Karaikal at 10.30pm.

The officer said he was obsessed with her. During interrogation, Suresh told police he had decided to take revenge on her because she had lodged a complaint against him. “Her family complained to police because he had been stalking her and had threatened her several times after she turned him down,” the officer said.

The Karaikal police arrested Suresh, 29, and charged him with attempted murder under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code.

 

#India-Acid attack victim may never see light #Vaw


By Express News Service – CHENNAI

30th November 2012 08:50 AM

The future of 23-year-old software engineer Vinodhini, who was attacked with acid by a man at Karaikal on November 14, seems bleak as doctors have ruled out the possiblity of an eye transplant and said she may not be able to regain her vision.

“Her eyeballs are damaged. Acid damages everything; it goes up to the bone. So, the chance of her getting back vision through transplant is not possible,” said Dr Jayaraman, of the burns ward, Kilpauk Medical College Hospital (KMCH).  Doctors identified the acid used on Vinodhini as sulphuric acid. According to doctors, it would take another six months for Vinodhini to recover and return home, as she would have to undergo reconstructive surgery at KMC. But the surgery is the last process before which she would have to go through other treatments.

Doctors said that the burnt and damaged skin would be removed in an operation, after the effects of the chemical ware off. “There will be a time gap before she undergoes a reconstructive surgery,” a doctor said. Vinodhini, who was working in a Chennai-based company, was walking towards a bus stand in Karaikal when a man threw acid on her. Her father, a private security guard, also suffered burns when he attempted to rescue his daughter.

Police said the attacker, Suresh, who was a dealer in construction materials, was obsessed with Vinodhini. “One of Vinodhini’s male colleagues had accompanied her when she came home for Deepavali. Suresh was upset that the man was accompanying her. The colleague also sustained injuries in the attack. Suresh also sustained acid burns as Vinodhini spat out acid that went into her mouth, on his face,” a police official said.

Karaikal police, who registered a case under four sections, including attempt to murder, against Suresh, said acid used to destroy trees and roots was used in the attack.