#Indianwomen: Finally, the spotlight is steady on acid attacks

by Rashmee

Posted on July 6, 2013



Sonali Mukherjee, who suffered an acid attack at 17 and became a millionaire 10 years later after she appeared - and won - India’s most-watched TV quiz show
Sonali Mukherjee, who suffered an acid attack at 17 and became a millionaire 10 years later after she appeared – and won  – India’s most-watched TV quiz show, Kaun Banega Crorepati

A new book, ‘Crimes Against Women’, by The Wall Street Journal’s Krishna Pokharel and Paul Beckett shows the “social blight” that is the reality for many Indian women.

As the authors say, “the assault, on a woman who was putting herself through college by working shifts in a call center, laid bare a troubling dynamic: Indian women are pursuing opportunities opened up by education and the economic boom, but a deep-rooted patriarchy means society and its institutions often fail them.”

So, to the rising incidence of acid attacks and the Indian state’s response. The good news (if there is anything good that can be said to come of something so horrendously bad) is that the light is increasingly being shone on this form of hideous assault. No longer are acid attacks talked of just in the context of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. India too, is in the spotlight.

Just four days ago, another strong article on the subject appeared in The Week, contributing to the pressure for a realistic look at what India needs to do to ensure its women are safe.

The other significant bit of good news about acid attacks is that for 13 weeks, India has had a law that makes acid-throwing a separate crime within the Indian penal code and setting a punishment of 10 years imprisonment.

Even so, just weeks after the new law was passed, The Times of India carried a rather good piece of reporting on how it was just as easy to buy acid in any market in the Indian capital as it was to buy noodles. As the report said, “The price is a laughable Rs 30 for 750 ml; cheaper than a 1.5 litre bottle of cola.”

For India, it is a reminder of how far it must go – and how quickly – in order to prevent this assault on its women. In Bangladesh, a law to check the sale of acid was enacted 11 years ago, imposing licensing requirements on manufacturers, importers and distributors. The incidence of such attacks reportedly fell by 15 to 20% with each successive year.

For India, the way forward may not be entirely clear, but at least a rough roadmap is available.


Rashmee has lived and worked in several countries in the past decade, including Afghanistan, India, Haiti, Tunisia, the UAE, US and UK

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