Regulate sale of acid, rights activists and attack survivors urge governmentAccording to a report, 16 people, 13 of them women, have been attacked with acid since 2015/2016. Yet acid is readily available for just Rs 25.
The government needs to immediately formulate laws to regulate the sale of acid to prevent attacks on women, survivors and rights activists said.
Legal provisions also need to be amended to introduce more stringent punishments for perpetrators of acid attacks, victims said at a panel discussion on the state’s obligation towards combating violence against women.
“We are worried that the government is not taking the issue of regulating the sale of acid seriously, although it has been almost three years since the Supreme Court urged the government to introduce a plan,” said Bikram Dhukuchhu, chair of Amnesty International Nepal.
According to a report presented during the discussion, 16 people, 13 of them women, have been attacked with acid since 2015/2016. Yet acid is readily available for just Rs 25.
The panel discussion, convened by Amnesty International Nepal as part of its campaign against acid violence, featured Sangita Magar, survivor and activist; Kedarnath Sharma, joint secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs; Deputy Superintendent Krishna Chand, from the metropolitan police range, and advocate Sashi Basnet.
“Provisions should be in place to allow only authorised outlets to sell acid—that too when the buyer produces a proper proof of identity,” said Sabin Shrestha, suggesting ways to regulate the sale of acid.
Joint Secretary Kedarnath Sharma, meanwhile, admitted that the Ministry of Home Affairs doesn’t have plans to formulate laws to regulate the sale of acid. “Since the issue is related to law, we are waiting for the law ministry to take the first step,” said Sharma.
Sharma further said that since acid is imported for use in different sectors, other government authorities could regulate its sale. “It is unfair to blame the Ministry of Home Affairs for not regulating the sale of acid,” said Sharma.
Panellists Sashi Basnet and Sangita Magar pointed out that along with the regulation of the sale of acid, the government should also introduce more stringent punishments for perpetrators.
“Jiwan BK, who threw acid on my face, will be out of prison in a year or two. I am scared as he has been sending me a series of letters from jail, threatening to kill me and my family,” said Magar, an attack survivor.
According to Section 193 of the Criminal Code 2017, a perpetrator can be jailed for five to eight years and fined up to Rs 500,000 if the victim’s face is injured in a chemical attack. Similarly, the offender faces three to five years of prison and a fine of Rs 300,00 if the victim sustains injuries on other parts of the body.
“Five to eight years jail time is very little punishment compared to the suffering and scrutiny we [the survivors] have to face for the rest of our lives. These culprits should be handed life imprisonment so that others don’t dare to commit such hideous crime,” said Jenny Khadha, another acid attack survivor.