Friday, September 15, 2006

postheadericon Acid Attacks on Women in the Subcontinent



Right across the road from my mother's childhood home there lived a family with two daughters in their twenties. I was at the age when one tends to idolize girls older than oneself and so, whenever I went to visit my grandmother I would spend hours admiring these two Anglo-Indian sisters with their honeyed eyes and golden-brown hair. Shortly after my 10th birthday I noticed that the older girl had dropped out of sight. After many weeks had gone by, I asked my grandmother why Rivalli* was nowhere to be seen and she told me (my grandmother was not one to mince words) that Rivalli's boyfriend had thrown acid on her face in a fit of jealous rage. Being only 10 years of age, I didn't know the damage that acid could cause so imagine my shock when I saw Rivalli several months later to find half her face had been eaten away by the acid and she had a permenant limp owing to damage caused to her feet by the acid.

Sadly, I would go on to meet and know a couple of other women who were victims of acid attacks. Whilst in High School, two of my classmates were also victims with one of them losing an eye due to the corrosiveness of the acid. The Indian newspapers were full of sad stories of young men who would resort to acid throwing when they felt spurned by the object of their affection. I read recently that such cases are also very common in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Infact, in Bangladesh, acid throwing is so prevalent that they even have a special hospital and rehabilitation centre for victims.

So, I found myself wondering why some men use this cruel method to exact revenge on a lover who has spurned his attentions and why acid-throwing happens to be a favored measure of retaliation for men from the sub-continent but hardly found elsewhere?

Let's try and tackle these questions together- I think one of the big reasons men in the subcontinent favor acid-throwing is because acid is cheap and easy to buy here. Sure, there are regulations on the sale, use, storage etc., but the rules are lax, also, in the male-dominated societies of the sub-continent, the man loses face when rejected and so he wants the woman to lose face, too, pun intended. Statistics tell us that women who have been left scarred or disfigured in an acid attack seldom ever get married, they are ostracized by their family and friends and are unable to find jobs. Their lives are all but over.

So, the next time the world celebrates an International Woman's Day can I ask all of you to remember the victims of acid attacks? True, in most cases their lives are spared, but because they are shunned so much by society I am sure a lot of them wish they were dead.

* Names have been changed.

18 comments:

hellomelissa said...

you can buy so many caustic chemicals at the grocery store that would have a similar effect as acid, so limiting access probably wouldn't stop a motivated criminal. but lotus, i had no idea of this terrible affliction! the question as to why a man would use this method to get revenge is probably best answered that the girl is then "ruined" for any other man. thanks for bringing this issue to my attention, and i am equally as appalled as you are.

Lotus Reads said...

Yup, you clinched it, Melissa! If they can't have the girl, then they don't want anyone else to have her either. What a mentality, I cannot comprehend it! The reason I didn't blog about this earlier is because I thought with the progress the subcontinent has made on the economic front that barbaric trends like these were on the wane. But when I saw an article in a recent Indian newspaper stating that acid attacks were on the rise, it infuriated me enough to write a post on it.

Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

La Gringa said...

What a powerful article. I have a lump in the pit of my stomach. It is incomprehensible.

Here in Honduras, it is not that unusual for a man to take a machete to his wife in a fit of anger or drunkenness. The women are usually killed or left terribly disfigured. I often think that the lack of power over their own lives makes these men want to control someone else.

sruthi said...

hey lotus... i had missed all these posts since the end of august because my browser didn't refresh on this page! but this is a pretty sad occurence over there. My mom would say the same thing melissa said because she has treated these patients (as much as you can "treat" them) in india and basically the men feel like if they can't get the girl, then they want to make sure that no other man can, and as an added dose of revenge, she has very little chance of leading a succesful job because of the ensuing disabilities.

Lotus Reads said...

Hello, La Gringa!

Sorry for taking so long to respond to your comment, but like I was explaining to Sruthi, blogger doesn't notify me everytime I receive a comment here.

Anyway, coming back to the comment, I think in societies where maschismo rules and where there is poverty and illiteracy to boot, the women tend to get the worst end of the deal. Like you stated, it's the lack of power in their own lives which make men want to lord it over their wives, children or anything else they have power over. Sad.

Lotus Reads said...

hi, Sruthi!

Is your mom a doctor in India? Wow, she must have some very interesting stories!

Cai said...

Wow... its sad that many people are actually that immature not to accept rejection, if there was any...
Thanx for your comment... ;)

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Cai!

Thanks for the visit, you do write the best poetry, love everyone of them - just wish I uunderstood more Spanish.

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

I've been hearing about this for years, primarily in Bangladesh - but it seems to be a subcontinental thing generally. Horrifying, and so cowardly. Thanks for sharing your memories.

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

I thought with the progress the subcontinent has made on the economic front that barbaric trends like these were on the wane.

It seems to be only external things that are changing and progressing - inside, all the superstitions, vengefulness, "evil eye" and so on prevail to an alarming extent (alongside technological improvements). I don't think such attacks have anything at all to do with economics.

Lotus Reads said...

Hello, sirensongs (can I call you that?)

Thanks for visiting and for your comment! Yes, it does seem to be a subcontinental thing for I know even Pakistan has its fair share of acid victims, and while these barbaric acts may not seem to have anything to do with economics, I was just meaning to connect the dots between being successful economically, being advanced technologically and having a better system of education (with education teaching us to better control our primal emotions). But like you say, unfortunately all these factors are not advancing at the same rate!

Charukesi said...

lotus reads, thanks for writing about this... acid attcks are just something we read about all the time and never think about - least of all, as a "gender issue" - i agree with what melissa has said, this is yet another way of marking some woman as "my own" - if I cannot have her, no other man can thinking... I somehow link acid attacks to rape - both are acts of estblishing power and leaving the victim scarred - literally in this case - for life and "spoilt" for any other man... (incidentally, these words are not what I have mde up or what I personally feel about them but taken straight out of popular social rhetoric around such crimes). in case of acid attacks, I guess the motive is also to attack the "vanity" of the woman - the face directly... oh, I know I am rambling... I am just trying to understand what motivates such acts - sadly I cannot...

charu
http://indsight.org/blog
http://mindspace.wordpress.com

Lotus Reads said...

Charu!

Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for the input. You are right to make the connection between acid attacks and rape, after all, they are both about power and dominance and about scarring the woman for life.

I just visited your blog - it was a brief visit but I have bookmarked you and intend returning often.

Maya Ray said...

Well dear!
so many painful thoughts?

It is a sight that one just cannot have the courage to face imagine they face it day in and day out when they see themselves, they can never forget it or get over - its a stigma for life more than a murder, living a dead persons life!

I for one have plunged myself to fight for them on all fronts.

I have taken the first victim for treatment. Being one from below the poverty line, I found her begging as she had no means to even get herself treated. She was carrying an infected eye sore for the last four years.

So, if you really feel, help me and reach out to all of those who are weeping for the loss that these women have gone through. Let us gather courage and help them fight their battles.

Donate generously to The Acid Survivors foundation India, so that we can go through a journey for their survival to the extent of rehabilitating them and bring them back on their feet.

Maya Ray said...

Well dear!
so many painful thoughts?

It is a sight that one just cannot have the courage to face imagine they face it day in and day out when they see themselves, they can never forget it or get over - its a stigma for life more than a murder, living a dead persons life!

I for one have plunged myself to fight for them on all fronts.

We have taken the first victim for treatment. Being one from below the poverty line, We found her begging as she had no means to even get herself treated. She was carrying an infected eye sore for the last four years, apart from a body totally out of proportion.

So, if you really feel, help us and collect all of those who are weeping for the loss that these women have gone through. Let us gather courage and help them fight their battles.

Also if you come across one who needs help please direct them to acidsurvivorsfoundationindia@ymail.com

Donate generously to The Acid Survivors foundation India, so that we can go through a journey for their survival to the extent of rehabilitating them and bring them back on their feet.

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