There’s no telling when this devastating attack can occur. The day’s the same, there are no symbolic peacocks, no messages shot into the skies. But the message is clear, your life will change. And not for the better.
Simply put, an acid attack involves dumping a whole lot of strong acid (generally sulphuric or hydrochloric acids are used), on a person’s body. Generally targeted at the face, an acid attack, in the span of a few seconds, utterly devastates the victim’s life. Many of these attacks result in permanent blindness. Frequently, the last vision of the victim is that of the monster set out to destroy her.
Ms. Vinodhini, an IT professional from Karaikal, India, was out for a walk with her father when a construction worker, 29-year-old Suresh, hurled nitric acid at her. He was a family acquaintance who, according to a relative of the victim, would frequently pester and taunt the family. On one occasion, he had approached the girl’s father with an intention to marry her, but was refused. Thus spurned, he decided to attack her.
However, she didn’t give up her courage, not even while the acid viciously ate through her skin. She managed to spit back some of the acid at her attacker. It’s a pity such a brave soul met such a sad end, for the girl died three months later. Her body was covered in burns. She suffered two massive cardiac arrests, and died when the third one came. She was 23 years old.
Not all attacks are fatal, but some die every day.
Take the case of Sonali Mukherjee from UP, India. She was 17 when three men threw acid at her face. She says that they used to sexually assault her and follow her around with lewd comments. When she told them off, they threatened her and attacked her when she was asleep.
It has been a long 10 years since that attack. Ms. Mukherjee is blind and partially deaf. The acid, colloquially referred to as ‘tezaab’( used for cleaning rusted items) ate through her eyelids, nose, skin. "I require more money to look even remotely human and to restore my eyesight," she said.
What about her attackers? They were jailed for just four months and now roam freely in the streets. How sweet justice is. It really makes you wonder.
There are many cases in many other countries. Katie Piper from UK, Nurbanu from Bangladesh, Anusha from Pakistan, Kamilat Mehdi from Ethiopia. Even celebrities are not exempt, it seems, as l the attack on Tat Marina in Cambodia, who was a famous singer at the time, clearly shows.
All of them cases of heartbreak, but some of them so brilliantly inspirational, so charged with the hope to live in spite of such hideous cruelty, that you find you can’t not cry.
Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI) calculates that there are approximately 1,500 acid attacks per year, and an estimated 80% of the victims are women. The reasons for these attacks can vary. In Cambodia, many attacks are caused by women throwing acid on whom they suspect to be their husband’s mistresses. In other countries like India, they can be carried out when a woman spurns sexual advances, like the attack on Ms. Mukherjee. Whatever the reason, the intent is to permanently damage the victim’s life. "If I can’t have her, nobody can" and "I must teach her a lesson for daring to reject me" are common refrains running through the head of the perpetrators.
A major reason why these attacks are on the rise is due to the easy availability of these chemicals. A bottle of strong drain cleaner or household cleaning agent can do the trick. They can be purchased cheaply; a bottle of acid can be purchased for Rs 50 (a dollar) in India.
That this is unacceptable goes without saying. Nobody should be scared to say no. No more sexual assaults. No more cheapening of a human life. No more people threatening to melt your face off if you dare to speak your mind.
Acid victims, your life isn’t over. Nobody, NOBODY, has the right to destroy years of hope, ambition, drive and talent with some chemical. Remember, everyone has the right to live, to succeed, to look up at the sun and smile like never before.