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‘Build support systems instead of offering piecemeal remedies’

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Grievances galore: Shalini Rajaneesh, Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development (left), with one of the participants at the hearing organised by Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women, in Bangalore on Thursday.
Grievances galore: Shalini Rajaneesh, Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development (left), with one of the participants at the hearing organised by Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women, in Bangalore on Thursday.

Special Correspondent

Acid attack victims speak out on the need to prevent heinous forms of violence against women

Bangalore: At a public hearing marked by forceful presentations, acid attack victims and social activists demanded a comprehensive policy to prevent heinous forms of violence against women and build support systems for those affected rather than offer piecemeal remedies to individual cases.

Minister for Women and Child Development P.M. Narendraswamy, Secretary to the department Shalini Rajneesh and other officials faced a barrage of questions at the hearing organised by Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAAW) here on Thursday.

The grievances ranged from medical complications faced by victims and loopholes in rehabilitation package to the need for changes in the legal structure to ensure time-bound redressal.

‘Forced to hide my face’

“I am forced to hide my face while the man who caused this is walking free,” said Shanti from Mysore, who was attacked in 2001 and has undergone 11 surgeries since then. Though she was given a job as a computer operator, her deteriorating eyesight — one of the long-term effects of acid attacks — is only getting worse because of constant exposure to the glare of the screen. “We do not want to beg, but give us jobs in accordance with our qualifications,” said Ms. Shanti, who has done teachers training.

Haseena, who was attacked in 1999 and has now lost vision in both eyes, said that the formalities involved in getting compensation or a job deterred every move. “When I called to enquire about a job scheme that was announced for victims, the person at the other end said that the jobs were for people with good-looking faces,” Ms. Haseena said.

Tippamma, who had come from Chikkanayakanahalli in Tumkur district, said she had got no more than Rs. 20,000 as compensation thought the upper limit for medical help was Rs. 2 lakh, and her family of daily wage earners had already spent Rs. 1 lakh on treatment.

Vidyavathi, who had come from Bidar, said that her daughter had left school and was looking after a ‘kirana’ shop to sustain the family.

Mahalakshmi, a doctor from Mysore who was attacked in 2001, said that she was appointed at a public health centre on Chamundi Hills in leave-cum-deputation service and faced the constant fear of being shifted out. She was harassed at the workplace, she added.

Members of CSAAAW and those in the jury at the hearing emphasised the need for a coordinated effort by the Police, Women and Child Development, and Health departments to address the issue of acid attacks.

Mallige of CSAAAW said that despite repeated appeals no thought had been given to regulating concentration levels and sale of acids.

There was no protection for victims and witnesses as perpetrators of the crime often got bail and threatened victims, she said.

‘Amend Section 326’

S.T. Ramesh, Additional Director-General of Police, Crime and Technical Services, suggested introduction of a sub-section to Section 326 of the Indian Penal Code on “causing grievous hurt” to specially address acid attack cases.

In response to a point raised by Sudha Sitaraman in the jury that gender bias on the part of the police personnel resulted in victims being further victimised rather then helped, Mr. Ramesh admitted that there was need for sensitisation.

Mr. Narendraswamy promised that houses would be given to the victims under the Ashraya scheme, and his department would focus on framing a comprehensive policy.

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