ACID AND BURN VIOLENCE
According to the World Health Organization Factsheet (2018), burns result in 180,000 deaths annually majorly in low and middle-income countries. Two-thirds of it occurs in the WHO African and Southeast Asia regions. In regard to Nepal, WHO also estimates that burns are the second common injury in rural Nepal accounting for 5 percent of disabilities. WHO (2018) also highlights that females have higher rates of deaths from burns in comparison to males.
Acid and burn violence (ABV) are some of the severe forms of gender-based violence prevalent in our society. Burn violence often occurs in domestic spaces whereas acid attacks occur in public spheres or around domestic spaces. In South Asia, ABV is also a severe consequence of a long period of abuse and violence against women within households. Burn violence often goes unreported as the victims hesitate to report the violence in fear of the culprit who is majorly partners/family/relatives/neighbors/friends. In the most recorded cases of burn violence, it is triggered by traditional and social evil practices such as the dowry system, preference of sons, and witch accusation. Other reasons include revenge and disputes. While the cases of the acid attack in Nepal have indicated interpersonal disputes, rejection of love proposals, revenge as major causes of attacks. Commonly used acid for acid attacks worldwide is hydrochloric acid (HCL), Nitric Acid (HNO3), and Sulphuric Acid ( H2SO4) which are easily available and serves various purposes not only at the household level but across multiple professions.
Concerning the legal provisions, the Constitution of Nepal 2015’s Article 38(3) prohibits the women to be subjected to physical, mental, sexual, psychological, or other forms of violence or exploitation on grounds of religion, social, cultural tradition, practice or on any other grounds. The subsection stipulates that if such an act is done, it shall be punishable by law.
There are no specific policies/acts to burn violence. The burn violence is punishable by the Domestic Violence Act 2009. Section 2(a) of the Act defines as “any form of physical, mental, sexual and economic harm perpetrated by a person to a person with whom he/she has a family relationship and this word also includes any acts of reprimand or emotional harm.” Furthermore, the act has defined “Physical harm” as “an act of committing or causing bodily harm or injury holding as a captive, inflicting physical pain or any other act connected therewith and incidental thereto except the act of breaking the limbs of the body”. The victims have the choice of reporting under the act to three different bodies: The National Women’s Commission, local bodies, or the police. The act has stipulated up to six months’ imprisonment and/or up-to NRs 25,000 fine for perpetrators of domestic violence, and half the punishment for accomplices.
With regard to the legal provisions related to acid violence, the President of Nepal Bidhya Devi Bhandari authenticated three ordinances in September 2020. The ordinances include the Acid and Other Fatal Chemicals (regulation) Ordinance 2020, Ordinance to Amend Criminal and Criminal Procedure Act, 2020, and Nepal Police and Provincial Police (Operation, Coordination, and Supervision) Act. The new laws punish the perpetrators with 20 years imprisonment and life imprisonment in case of death of victims and stipulate a fine up to 1 million. Regulating the sales of acid has been highly prioritized with significance given to licensing of registered businesses and the formation of the District Acid Control Committee in each district for effective execution of laws. The maintenance of acid sales record has also been prioritized. If businesses fail to maintain the record on sales of acid, they will also be liable to imprisonment for a maximum of one year.
Previously, Nepal’s Criminal Code 2017’s Section 193 prohibited the immoral usage of acid or any biochemical and poisonous substances that result in injuries or disfigurement of the face or body. In case of disfigurement of the face, the section had stipulated five to eight years of imprisonment and monetary fines that ranged between fifty thousand to three lakhs in case of injuries on the victim’s body parts. It is the first law that criminalizes acid attacks. However, there were no laws related to sales of acid. In August 2017, the Supreme Court had issued an order to the government to regulate the sale and distribution of acids. The order was issued over a petition filed by advocate Sashi Basnet along with the Justice and Rights Institute Nepal and organization working for human rights and social justice. Despite the order from the apex court, there had been no further development to regulate acid sales until September 2020.