Alarm bells must ring

The Acid attack on a 24 year old girl that occurred in Hawal area of Srinagar on Tuesday, Ist of February has yet again brought into question the safety of women in general, and young girls in particular, in our society.

The vitriolage that occurred is certainly not the first one. Such horrific episodes have been happening sporadically in Kashmir, nationally, and worldwide.

   

Although the role of effective legislations, law enforcement community and courts in prevention and penalisation of perpetrators is undeniable, no human society can ever remain complacent by relegating and entrusting such a grave issue to a mere legal procedure.

Safety of half the population against a crime that is essentially rooted in an aspect of human culture; it is not just a legal question. Such episodes unravel the very darkest aspect of human nature, on one hand, and our socio-cultural underbelly on the other.

Acid attacks are are gender based heinous crimes against women. Gender based violence and gender safety is a multifaceted problem. This phenomenon is deeply rooted in inequality between gender, & arises due to inequitable gender relations.

Acid attack is a “crime of passion” because these attacks are usually fuelled by revenge or jealousy”. Evidence has time and often pointed out that that attacks are usually the result of rage at a woman who rebuffs marriage proposal, romantic relationship or sexual advances from a male. The aggressor resorts to acid throwing either to take revenge against perceived insult for rejection of marriage proposal or sexual advance. It is an expression of control over women’s body.

Acid attacks are premeditated and generally intent at disfiguring or torturing the victim. The disfigurement of victim becomes a mark of shame and stigma and damages their chance of marriage. Such attacks are impelled by lascivious & egocentric calls of possessiveness. “If I can’t have you, no one shall”. The surviving victim finds herself being punished in society through shame, stigma isolation, dependence.

Violence against women is rooted in discriminatory social norms and gender stereotypes that breed such violence. The very idea of victim’s low prospect of being accepted by in love or marital relationship suffering disfigurement becomes a source of sadistic pleasure to the aggressor notwithstanding the untold physical pain, psychological trauma and social torment that the victim has to undergo often endlessly.

The attack in many cases leaves the surviving victims handicapped in many ways rendering them dependant on others, hence unleashing a vicious cycle of social discrimination and exploitation.

Acid attacks against women and girls therefore have a multiplied impact because of the unfavourable societal reactions to the survivor that is surely known by the perpetrator before inflicting brutality.

The supposed unacceptability of a disfigured surviving victim in the institution of marriage or a secure relationship which underlies the motivation behind the Vitriolage on part of the aggressor bears out that at least some among the male folk have still not been able to transcend beyond our age old patriarchal frame of mind perceiving women as a sexual object, personal property or commodity, and not an equal and independent creature in human society. This vulnerability at socio-cultural level is a dangerous concession to the devils of barbarity.

Although there are penal provisions and legislations have been enacted to deal with the menace of incidence of acid attacks, the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013, and incorporation of section 326A and 326B in Indian penal code creating special provisions for victims of acid attack, all of us must agree that legislation alone isn’t sufficient to prevent and stop a social menace. The social consciousness has to be aroused to fight against the the evil.

Society needs to adopt a multi-pronged battle from regulating the availability and use of chemicals, enactment of stringent legislations to punish the perpetrator. There has to be an attitudinal change and a socio-cultural transformation

The best way to end acid violence is to prevent it from happening in the first place by addressing its root causes. Education is critical in prevention of acid attacks and other forms of violence against girl.

Society urgently calls for a radical transformation of patriarchal norms and attitudes towards womanhood. Egalitarian attitudes and values promoting respect for womanhood should be ingrained in children right from the formative years, and must pervade all aspects of social life.

Author is a school teacher by profession

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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