Target: Parliament of India
Goal: Cover the medical treatment costs of Indian acid attack victims.
Acid attacks occur about a thousand times a year in India. The young female victims, frequently targeted by rejected suitors, are impacted both physically and emotionally. In physical pain from their burns, they also suffer emotionally because society shuns them for their disfigured faces. At the behest of India’s Supreme Court, the country’s parliament has finally taken action to crack down on this crime by listing acid attacks as a standalone offense in the penal code, mandating a 10-year minimum sentence for offenders, and making it more difficult to purchase the chemical in stores. In an attempt to bar assailants from impulsively purchasing hydrochloric acid to take revenge on women who haven’t reciprocated their romantic interest, stores will be required to probe prospective purchasers on their intended use of the product.
Although the law must be praised for taking the initiative of preventing the recurrence of such attacks, the financial compensation of $6,000 that it offers to the injured party will most likely not be sufficient to cover her restorative surgery costs. Thus, the legislation in its current form doesn’t give women the chance to overcome the stigma of a disfigured face by restoring it to as normal of a state as possible. The Indian parliament should significantly increase the payout to acid attack victims so that they can get the best possible medical treatment both for the sake of their health and appearance.
In the case of Laxmi Aggarwal, the woman whose public interest litigation prompted the court ruling, the total medical expenses exceeded the compensation specified in the new law by about three times — the seven operations on her burned eyes, lips, and nose ran up to an approximate total of $16,000 and she still needs to undergo additional procedures. Even worse, the law offers absolutely no compensation for past victims meaning that the families who in many cases drove themselves to financial ruin by paying for their daughters’ medical care will not get a penny of their money back.
It is impossible to understate the importance of fully funding these women’s restorative surgeries; in light of the shame and isolation they have had to suffer as a result of their disfigurement, there is absolutely nothing trivial about their quest to regain a normal appearance. Laxmi Aggarwal has had to confront mockery and cross looks from people who were put off by the scarred, burned flesh on her face. Strangers gazing into these deformed faces are repelled by the maze of wrinkles and folds that confronts them. The poor women, through no fault of their own, make a terrible first impression that makes others want to turn away.
To not give the acid attacks victims the means to reconstruct their face so it regains some semblance of normality would be the equivalent of letting their attackers triumph. If the assailant succeeds in driving the woman into a life of isolation and seclusion because she perceives herself to look like a monster and doesn’t dare to inflict her terrifying visage on others, then the law, for all its beneficial preventative measures, is ultimately a failure because it doesn’t restore the dignity and self-worth of the victim.
It would be shameful to let the acid attackers succeed in their cruel plan to turn their former object of desire into someone who is unwanted and unloved. These jilted lovers who couldn’t bear the insult of having their advances rebuffed decided that if the woman doesn’t dedicate her existence to them, then her appearance should be ruined so that no one else would ever fall in love with her or befriend her. Laxmi Aggarwal had acid thrown at her as a teenager because she adamantly resisted when an older man she barely knew pressured her to marry him. He apparently punished her simply for having the gall to reject his repeated stalking and marriage proposals.
Dear members of the Indian Parliament,
We ask you to amend the acid attacks law to fully cover the restorative surgery costs of both past and future victims. Otherwise, the legislation fails in its goal of helping them find their way back to a normal and fulfilling life. As it stands, these women may not summon the courage to step out of their seclusion and make their way in the world because the government hasn’t provided them with enough money to restore their health and improve their facial appearance.
If the acid attacks victims’ operations are not fully funded, then they may not have the confidence to show their face to the world because their deformed features are so frightening to themselves and others. To prevent them from reconstructing their faces would only serve to support the malicious intent of the criminals who wanted to rob them of their self-worth and presentability in order to turn them into social recluses.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Walkerma via Wikipedia Commons