Punishment for acid attack perpetrators seen as too less

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 19

Acid attack victim Muskhan Khatun’s plea to Prime Minster KP Sharma Oli has moved the PM to bring stringent laws to curb such attacks.

Khatun told THT she was happy the PM had agreed to bring stringent laws to control acid attacks and provide relief to victims. After a meeting with acid victims, the PM said he would bring stringent laws to control the crime.

There are around 20 acid victims in the country.

Acid was thrown at Khatun, a resident of Parsa district, last year. She has been living in Kathmandu for follow-up and has undergone four surgeries and may have to go through more surgical procedures.

Khatun said the government had to provide not only treatment cost for acid victims, but also education expenses and jobs. “Acid attack victims are denied jobs in the formal sector.

The government must think compassionately and provide jobs,” she argued.

“Acid victims have to undergo surgery multiple times and they feel pain and suffering everyday,” she said.

Khatun said she had wanted to meet PM Oli from the day she was admitted to Kirtipur hospital last year but it was only after Attorney General Agni Prasad Kharel took the initiative that she could meet the PM and narrate her sufferings.

Recently, Khatun and other acid victims met the PM, who assured stringent laws to curb acid attacks and address the problems of victims.

Nepal Law Commission and the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs have started drafting a new law to control acid attacks.

Spokesperson for the Office of the Attorney General Sanjeeb Raj Regmi said there were two major parts the government needed to take into account to control acid attacks.

According to Regmi, acid and other harmful chemicals should only be sold by licence holders and a special government agency needed to be set up to monitor the sale and distribution of acid. “Acid is used to clean tiles and toilets so its legitimate use should not be prohibited, while at the same time there should be adequate safeguards against its misuse,” Regmi said.

He said the current provision of awarding jail sentence of up to eight years for defacing or damaging the body parts of a victim was not enough.

“Victims want life term for their perpetrators. Under existing laws, life term means imprisonment till death. I personally think imposing life term on perpetrators would be too harsh, but the current provision is not enough to deter perpetrators. Jail sentence must be increased for acid attackers,” he said.

Regmi said the new penal code had incorporated a provision for acid attacks, but that was not enough to deter perpetrators.

According to Regmi, free treatment and education for acid victims were necessary.

“We have a victim who has spent up to Rs 11,400,000 rupees on treatment,” Regmi said and added that the law should force perpetrators to compensate victims. However, if perpetrators fail to compensate, the government should do the needful.

“We have legal provisions whereby a rape victim gets interim relief from the government when the perpetrators cannot provide compensation.

The same provision should apply to acid attack victims also,” he argued.

Executive Director of Forum for Women, Law and Development Sabin Shrestha said his office had told the law ministry in a consultation meeting that kerosene and petrol should also be treated as harmful chemicals as they were also used in various parts of the country to torment women for not bringing dowry.

Shrestha said while retroactive provisions could not be used to punish perpetrators who were involved in acid attack in the past, the new law should have retroactive effect to provide relief to victims, who suffered acid attacks in the past.

Shrestha said the government had designated four hospitals in Kathmandu as hospitals for burn injury victims, but the government needed to establish burn units in all 77 districts.

Recently, the Women and Social Committee of the House of Representatives also directed the government to amend existing legal provisions related to acid attack to ensure full justice for victims.

The house panel had said punishment for acid attack should be made more stringent to prevent such incidents from recurring.

Feature Image: File


A version of this article appears in e-paper on September 20, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.


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