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Acid attacks: Stemming the free flow of toxicity

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By Ridham Gambhir

He slowly broke the seal of the bottle with his gloved hands and tapped the man sitting ahead of him. The girl was still walking on the footpath ignorant of these men. With an expeditious move, he threw open the bottle. The acid splashed out and incinerated her face ruthlessly. Her scream silenced the humdrum of the road while the bike raced along the corner and disappeared.

Crystal_body_AcidAttack1

Acid attacks have been experienced by some, seen by a few and read by a lot more. A woman doctor became a patient herself when two juveniles threw acid on her face in a marketplace in West Delhi. This attack took place in 2014, one year after the Supreme Court ordered a ban on the over-the-country sale of acid. The ban was announced as a result of a PIL filed by Luxmi Agarwal, an acid attack survivor.

Despite the ban, the year 2014 saw an unparalleled 309 acid attacks being reported from across the country. While the open sale is banned, the life-taking liquid continues to be sold illegally in places like Ghaziabad in UP for a minimal amount of Rs.25.

Luxmi Agarwal, at the age of 16 became an acid attack victim when she rejected the advances of a 32-year old man. Hina Fatima, a young bride was force fed sulphuric acid in the name of whisky by her husband and later splashed with a whole bottle of it. Sarojini Kalbagh, 19, died of 80 per cent burns when her ‘lover’ succumbed her to death by the fatal liquid. Noorjahan, a widow and a mother of two was soaked in acid by a dejected factory worker.

No matter which age group they belong to, women are the majority victims of such attacks. It is not out of his love, but his desire to overpower the woman and an attempt to prove his masculinity that results in such a heinous act.

To combat the rising acid attacks, the apex court has announced stern rules. Such as, anyone under the age of 18 will not be able to purchase acids like hydrochloric, sulfuric and nitric. These acids are easily available for mere Rs. 20 and are used as cleaners. Shops will have to keep details like the quantity sold and the addresses of buyers, who will need to present photo identification to purchase acids.

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Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal

Retailers will have to declare the amount of acid being stocked to the police,  the court said. Failure to do so would lead to undeclared stock being confiscated and a fine of up to 50,000 rupees. Additionally, Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson Swati Maliwal in consultation with deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and health minister Satyendra Jain, along with a delegation of 5 acid victims announced that the latter shall be provided free medical treatment at all hospitals in Delhi, including private hospitals.

It is the easy availability of acid and the rage of a spurned lover/husband that provokes him to ‘teach a lesson’ to the girl. Blaming the government authorities for such acts is commonplace but while the government is putting a check on the supply and demand of acid, how about we reappraise our gender relations and morality?

Are we to remain a silent spectator to such attacks or just a candle-bearer after these women die? Reduction in the sale of acid will not reduce acid attacks, it is the depth of humanity that needs to be explored and ameliorated.

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India Gets A Win, Supreme Court Decriminalizes Homosexuality

In December 2013, a Supreme Court bench said that it was for the legislature to look into desirability of deleting section 377 of IPC.

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Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

 In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court on Thursday decriminalised homosexuality between consenting adults by declaring Section 377, the penal provision which criminalised gay sex, as “manifestly arbitrary”.

In separate but unanimous verdicts, a five-judge Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra partially struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as unconstitutional.

The bench said it is no longer an offence for LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex and queer/questioning) community to engage in consensual sex between two adults in private.

Reading out the judgment, Chief Justice Misra said attitudes and mentality have to change to accept others’ identity and accept what they are, and not what they should be.

Homosexuality, India
LGBTIQ people have a right to live unshackled from the shadow.
Pixabay

“It is the constitutional and not social morality which will prevail,” said the court.

The verdict sparked celebrations in the LGBTIQ community across India even as the judgment was being read out. Many of the community members who had assembled outside the apex court jumped in joy and distributed sweets.

Chief Justice Misra said consensual sex between adults in a private space, which is not harmful to women or children, cannot be denied as it is a matter of individual choice.

Section 377 will not apply to consensual same-sex acts between homosexuals, heterosexuals, lesbians, the court said, clarifying that sexual act without consent and bestiality will continue to be an offence under section 377.

“An individual has full liberty over his or her body and his or her sexual orientation is a matter of one’s choice,” said the Chief Justice.

“Time to bid adieu to prejudicial perceptions deeply ingrained in social mindset. Time to empower LGBTIQ community against discrimination. They should be allowed to make their choices,” he added.

Homosexuality, India
In separate but unanimous verdicts, a five-judge Constitution Bench struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as unconstitutional. Pixabay

 

In a concurring judgement, Justice Nariman said homosexuality is “not a mental disorder or disease”.

He said the LGBTIQ community has an equal right to live with dignity and are entitled to equal protection of law. He directed the Centre to give wide publicity to this judgment to remove the stigma attached to homosexuality.

Justice Chandrachud said to deny the LGBTIQ community their right to sexual orientation is a denial of their citizenship and a violation of their privacy.

“They cannot be pushed into obscurity by an oppressive colonial legislation… Sexual minorities in India have lived in fear, hiding as second class citizens,” said Justice Chandrachud, adding “the state has no business to intrude on such matters”.

Justice Indu Malhotra said that history owes an apology to the LGBTIQ community for all that they have suffered on account of the ignorance of the majority about homosexuality.

“LGBTIQ people have a right to live unshackled from the shadow,” she said.

Homosexuality, India
People Participated in Hundreds for the Gay Pride Parade Held In Delhi.

The Supreme Court verdict, which overruled its own earlier judgment, assumes significance as in the earlier round of litigation in 2013, the top court had reversed a Delhi High Court ruling decriminalising homosexuality.

The Delhi High Court bench, headed by then Chief Justice A.P. Shah, had in July 2009 legalised homosexual acts between consenting adults by overturning the 149-year-old law — finding it unconstitutional and a hurdle in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In December 2013, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya in the Suresh Kumar Koushal and another vs Naz Foundation and others case, had set aside the high court’s judgment and said that it was for the legislature to look into desirability of deleting section 377 of IPC.

The matter was subsequently resurrected in July 2016, when a fresh petition was filed by members of the LGBTIQ community — dancer N.S. Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath and business executive Ayesha Kapur — which was then marked to the Constitution Bench by a Division Bench.

Homosexuality, India
Gaydo, India’s first LGBTQ Radio Show

Also Read: Gaydio: India’s First LGBTQ Radio Show Will Help People Understand Gender and Sexuality in a Better Manner

The reference was made on the basis of submission that it was the first time that individuals directly affected by the provision were approaching the court.

Among the petitioners are a batch of current and former students of Indian Institutes of Technology. Claiming to represent more than 350 LGBTIQ alumni, students, staff and faculty from the IITs, the petitioners said that the existence of Section 377 had caused them “mental trauma and illnesses, such as clinical depression and anxiety and relegated some of them to second-class citizenship”. (IANS)