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Acid attack: Awareness and legal action together can deter this heinous crime

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Doubtlessly, acid attack is a violent assault, one of the worst crimes that one can imagine. However, the number of acid attacks is increasing in the country.  It has become a burning issue that people need to be more aware of. Likewise, legal provisions and their strict implementation are also essential to help society fight against it.

Every year hundreds of innocent people become victims of acid attack. Although most girls and women are subjected to it, anyone can be targeted, male or female, child or adult.

The courage to get involved in such malicious act stems from socio-cultural factors like education, upbringing, and peer pressure etc. as well as psychological factors. One act of vitriol inspires the other in a never-ending cycle that ruins people’s lives forever. Perpetrators are not always nabbed and brought to the judicial process, rubbing salt to the wound of survivors.

It is hard to prevent such attacks because they are rooted in the perpetrators’ psyche. Most often, the perpetrators might have gone through a mental breakdown or have innate narcissism, psychopathy or sociopathy. Then, the acids are easily available in the market. Regulation of acid sales has been an uphill struggle for the government despite advocacy campaigns by the survivors and their well-wishers.

What we need now is, hence, a drive to teach and educate people on empathy and destructive consequences of acid along with all forms of gender-based violence relating to it. Further, the judicial system should increase the punishment against the perpetrators while providing life-saving funds to the survivors. This is definitely a difficult task, but we can make efforts for it.

According to a new provision in the Criminal Code, those found guilty of disfiguring others’ faces can be imprisoned for five to eight years and fined Rs 100,000 to Rs 500,000. Likewise, there is a provision of imprisonment for three to five years and a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 30,000 if anyone is found guilty of disfiguring someone’s body parts or causing pain.

There are many strict laws against acid attacks in Nepal, but the misfortune of our country is that most of them remain only in papers. The already existing laws against these attacks need to be implemented properly. In addition to this, we need some changes in the law that can prove effective in curbing acid attacks and help the victims lead their lives with dignity. Punishment should be given to the perpetrators’ intention, rather on the basis of victims’ wounds.

The government now has to enact a law on provisions for sale and distribution of acid. It should be allowed only on prescriptions.

The biggest power in the world is the power of voice. Therefore, our society is in the utmost need of awareness about acid.

According to the Nepal Police Headquarters, four acid attacks have been reported every year for the past six years. Law enforcers have recorded 20 acid attacks from fiscal year 2014/15 to 2019/20.

Let’s hope that the strictest laws against acid attack will be passed and such incidents will not happen again. Not only in Nepal, but acid attack must also be avoided from all over the world. Let us join together to minimise such crimes as far as we can.

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Kadel is a social activist from Benighat, Dhading.

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