The girl in the video is a victim of an acid attack in Mumbai, India. Her severe disfigurement is a permanent after-effect that she and other victims must live with their entire life. Reshma is a teenager who was an aspiring student who was looking forward to working after finishing school. She was attacked by her brother-in-law on 19 May 2014 when she went to Allahabad to sit an examination.
Concentrated sulphuric acid was poured on her face causing the loss of her left eye and leaving her right eye partially closed. According to the BBC, around 1,500 cases of acid attacks are recorded around the world every year. “That is likely to be massively underreported,” says Jaf Shah, Acid Survivors Trust International executive director. “Most victims are fearful to report it to the police for fear of reprisal.” Of those reported figures, ASTI estimates that 1,000 attacks are taken place in India.
Through this makeup tutorial video, Reshma raises awareness for the organisation Make Love Not Scars. It encourages us to sign a petition for the Indian government to ban over-the-counter sale of acid.
This is the letter to the Prime Minister of India and the Minister for Home Affairs and the Chief Ministers of all States/Union Territories:
Subject: Make Acid Unavailable To The Common Man
We write with the hope that our request, echoing the pleas of several hundreds of acid attack victims shall be heard. India witnesses as many as 1000 cases of acid attacks every year (source: BBC). The number of acid attacks increased between 2012 to 2014 by an alarming 250%. It remains one of the most horrifying forms of gender based violence with almost 90% of victims being women.
In December 2012, the world was taken by storm as details were made public about the horrendous gangrape of an innocent 23-year old girl. A girl we named Nirbhaya in the hope that she would be the last victim of our apathy. Brave Nirbhaya fought her attackers, fought her injuries, fought the pain of having her intestines removed and fought death itself, but she lost her battle with death on 29 December 2012.
Just a few weeks after Nirbhaya died, another innocent girl – J Vinodhini from Karaikal in Tamil Nadu – lost her life on 12 February 2013. Like Nirbhaya, she too was just 23 years old, had completed her B. Tech and had just taken up a job. Like Nirbhaya, she too fought against excruciating pain, not from gangrape, but due to a brutal acid attack, which instantly blinded her and burnt her face, chest and hands. Like Nirbhaya, she too lost her battle against death.
The protests after Nirbhaya helped in the bringing about changes in laws to make acid attacks a separate category of offence punishable with 10 years and even death penalty. However, three years later, things have not changed much with respect to how easily dangerous acids can be obtained by anyone. To explain in layman terms, anyone can go and purchase toilet-cleaning acids without any questions asked, and for just Rs 100 or less for a litre.
While there are serious lapses in the implementation of Poisons Acts and Poison Rules, compensatory & medical facilities for the victims, the biggest threat is posed by the unregulated availability of acid in the market.
Even after the Union Government issued an advisory to all states to bring acids under the state Poisons Act and Poisons Rules, only a few states have done so. Moreover, even states that have brought acids under the coverage of the Poisons Act have had issues with implementation of the rules on the ground. That acid continue to be easily available is reflected in the alarming rise of over 250% in the number of acid attacks between 2012 and 2014.
Our request to the Honourable Prime Minister of India, Honourable Minister for Home Affairs and Honourable Chief Ministers of all states/UTs is to immediately take the following steps to help restrict the sale of acids to lay persons:
- Toilet-cleaning acid must be banned completely and use of other chemical cleaning agents must be encouraged
- All states must bring strong acids under Poisons Act and Poisons Rules
- Manufacturing of acids must be strictly restricted, with licensing requirement for manufacturers. Excise duties on concentrated acids should be increased to make them very expensive and beyond the reach of common persons. (For e.g. excise duty on sulphuric acid is 12.5% as against 21 – 72% on cigarettes and 70% on gutkha)
- SDM of every district to report on shops, educational institutions, industrial establishments etc. allowed to manufacture, store and deal in strong acids and the list to be made available to the Chief Minister of every state
- The guidelines for safe storage, distribution and restricted sale of acids must be strictly implemented by all states, with legal provision to hold seller of acid liable to imprisonment and fine (as against only fine) if it is proved that the guidelines issued have not been followed
- Unauthorised storage, sale of strong acids to be checked through random surprise checks by the revenue authorities of the state
- The changes to the Indian Penal Code after Nirbhaya made acid attacks a non-bailable offence. Bail must be strongly discouraged in cases of acid attack and may be granted only in exceptionally rare cases.
A Concerned Citizen Of India