A heinous crimePerpetrators of acid attacks deserve stronger punishment than what the law provides for
In yet another despicable episode, a 27-year-old woman became the victim of an acid attack after a jilted lover threw the highly corrosive chemical agent at her on Sunday night in Butwal. The victim suffered terrible burn injuries to which she succumbed on Monday morning.
In many cases, acid attacks result in impairment or loss of body organs as well as severe trauma and disfigurement that can leave the victims ostracised. Sometimes, they lead to death, as the latest episode shows. The victims are overwhelmingly women, and the reasons behind the attacks are usually linked to disputes over dowry or property, or rejection of a man’s advances. Men, unwilling to accept refusal, resort to such dastardly acts, possibly in a delusional attempt to avenge the humiliation of rejection, assert their dominance, project their manhood or render the woman an unsuitable partner for others.
Preliminary investigation by the police suggests that Sunday’s crime was a result of the woman’s refusal to the man’s proposal of marriage. It was, according to a deputy superintendant of police, a premeditated act as the perpetrator had brought the acid along with him to the hotel where the two were staying and where the act took place.
Acid attacks are a particular scourge in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the West Indies and the Middle East. In neighbouring India, an estimated 500 to 1,000 attacks take place every year. Thankfully, they are not as common in Nepal, although reliable data are hard to come by. A few incidents have been reported in the Tarai, and three schoolgirls were attacked with acid two years ago in Basantapur in Kathmandu.
Following that incident, the country enacted a new law criminalising acid attacks. Perpetrators can now be sentenced to up to eight years in prison and victims can receive Rs300,000 as compensation. Activists, however, argue that the punishment does not fit the seriousness of the crime and that the law does not do enough to rehabilitate the victims.
Needless to say, such barbaric acts are unacceptable on moral, gender and legal grounds. No matter what the grudges of the perpetrators are, acid attacks are a heinous offence that must be condemned in the strongest terms. The attacks leave severe physical, psychological and social scars, and can even be fatal. They can take a heavy toll on women’s sense of security, as they are meant to sow fear and make a statement. As such, perpetrators deserve stronger punishment than what the law currently provides for.