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Acid Attack Scourge Calls For Multiple-Pronged Approach

In addition to the physical and psychological distress, acid attack causes financial stress on the victim and their family members


Sahithya BR
Dr Sahithya BR., MSc, MPhil, PhD. is a Clinical psychologist working in the mental health sector with vulnerable children, adolescents and adults. She is also actively involved in research and training. She is currently working as an assistant professor of clinical psychology at DIMHANS, Dharwad

Acid attack is a serious offence. India witnesses one of the highest numbers of acid attack cases in the world. Acid attacks burn the skin, damage tissues and muscles, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones and lead to several disabilities including permanent blindness. According to the reports released by the National Crime Records Bureau of India, there have been nearly 1,500 victims of acid attacks between 2014 and 2018. However, since the crime was defined as a specific criminal offence only after the legislation of the 2013 Criminal Law Amendment Act, not much is available. Figures released subsequently by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed that, between 2018 and 2020, there have been nearly 1,600 victims of acid attacks in the country. It must be noted that about 60% of incidents are never reported due to several reasons such as shame, stigma, poverty, remote location and ignorance of legal provisions. It is said that out of 1,500 total cases reported globally every year, approximately 1,000 are committed in India.

Statistics reveal that more than 80% of victims are women, with the majority in the age bracket of 18-22 years. In 84% of the cases, the perpetrators are men and mostly someone known to the victim (Acid Survivors Trust International). Because acid attacks mostly involve men as offenders and women as victims, a primary cause of acid attacks has been attributed to the patriarchal nature of Indian society[1]Goswami, S., & Handa, R. K. (2020). The peril of acid attacks in india and susceptibility of women. Journal of Victimology and Victim Justice, 3(1), 72-92.

Vidhik Kumar from the National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi, reviewed possible motives for an acid attack in 2020 and reported several for acid attack against women. These include refusal to marry, personal enmity of the husband to the victim, suspicion or knowledge of an extramarital affair, ending of an extramarital affair, refusal to accept requests of sexual advances, non-acceptance of marriage prospects either by the accused’s family or by the victim’s family, jealousy of the victim’s beauty, jealousy of the victim’s success and job, property dispute with the victim’s family and other personal enmities with the victim or victim’s family.

An acid attack can have several devastating effects on the victim. Other than the corrosive nature of acids, which dissolve the skin and muscle and even reach bones and organs in some cases as stated above, victims endure damaged eyelids, ears, nose, nostrils, mouth, lips, eyes, cheeks, chin, neck, forehead, skull, breasts, shoulders and hair — all of which impair a victim for life. Toxic fumes from the acid can cause a poisonous reaction in the victim’s lungs or throat, which can lead to breathing difficulty and even death by asphyxiation. Acid attack leaves thick scars and causes skin to tighten or turn leathery, which exposes victims to further deformity and difficulties such as the inability to close eyelids, which makes the eyes vulnerable to blindness due to excessive drying; inability to open or close mouth, which causes teeth to decay and leads to difficulty in eating; destruction of ear cartilage, which increases the vulnerability to future infections and hearing loss; inability to move or extend neck or head; reduced range of motion of the arms due to fixation of the arms to the side of the body; and fixation of the chin to the chest. [2]Kumar, Vidhik (2021) “Acid Attacks in India: A Socio-Legal Report,” Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence: Vol. 6: Iss. 1, Article 5. Doi.10.23860/dignity.2021.06.01.05

Acid attack victims not only suffer physical pain during the attack but also experience intense terror during an attack, which can cause severe psychological trauma. Victims report suffering severe posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, insomnia, recurring nightmares, fear of another attack and reluctance to face the world or participate in society. Victims are often permanently disfigured and disabled, which brings about a sudden drastic change in their life and they become physically dependent on family. Their dreams are crushed as the disfigurement and disability destroys their prospects of marriage or employment. Victims often experience pity, stares and mockery due to their scars and disfigurement.

In addition to the physical and psychological distress, an acid attack causes financial stress on the victim and their family members. They need to undergo intensive treatment first to save their life, second to reduce disability and deformity, which includes several surgeries which are very expensive. This can become a burden on the victim and the family members. Although compensation is available, a 2020 survey reported that compensation was not paid to acid attack victims in 799 out of 1,273 cases (National Commission for Women). 

Although India has undertaken effective measures to provide justice to acid attack victims, issues remain, such as low conviction rates and delayed disposal of cases by the Courts. Many acid attack cases in India are either annulled for trial in the subsequent year or remain established for years in police files only, without ever being brought to court. An acid attack case on average takes up to five to ten years to be disposed of completely by the courts.  In 2016, 2017 and 2018 convictions rates were negligible at 2.45%, 3.39% and 3.36% respectively (Kumar 2021). An acid attack on a woman is a heinous crime, which is physically, mentally, socially and financially devastating to the victim. The victims endure long term distresses, sometimes permanent disability, along with severe implications to their mental health. Adding to the woe is the low conviction rate. Acid attacks have deep-rooted misogyny and patriarchy as the reasons, which implies that society must undergo a humongous change in order to prevent such crimes against women. While there are several legislations to prevent these crimes, its implementation is poor, which calls for urgent attention of the office bearers to take active steps to prevent such crimes against women and to help the victims of such an attack. Police must deal with acid attack cases timely so that justice is delivered swiftly. The need of the hour is also to educate the youth to make them respect women’s rights, equality, autonomy and privacy. Making the public sensitive and empathetic towards the victims can be achieved through awareness programs. Further, free medical and mental health care for the victims, as well as creating academic and job opportunities and guiding the victims to utilise these opportunities, will go a long way in rehabilitating acid attack victims.


1 Goswami, S., & Handa, R. K. (2020). The peril of acid attacks in india and susceptibility of women. Journal of Victimology and Victim Justice, 3(1), 72-92.
2 Kumar, Vidhik (2021) “Acid Attacks in India: A Socio-Legal Report,” Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence: Vol. 6: Iss. 1, Article 5. Doi.10.23860/dignity.2021.06.01.05

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