Drafters should appropriately penalize and punish acts of violence against women carried out as intimidation or retribution for refusal to marry. Such violence may include acid attacks, stove burnings or honor killings. In addition, laws should provide for adequate medical, legal and social services to victims of these attacks.
Promising practices: The India Prevention of Offences (by Acids) Act (draft bill) (2008) sets forth its objectives as part of the broader goal of combating violence against women. Currently, the Indian Penal Code criminalizes voluntarily causing hurt or grievous hurt using dangerous weapons or means, such as poison or corrosives (Art. 324, 326). The bill criminalizes acid attacks as a separate, serious, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence, addresses medical, psychological, social, rehabilitative and legal support for victims of acid attacks, establishes the roles and functions of the implementing authorities, and regulates acid and other corrosives. Compensation is earmarked for the victim’s medical treatment, special needs and rehabilitation, and children in the event of her death. Such relief is not dependent on convictions or identification of the perpetrator.
India’s Punjab state assembly passed a resolution calling for acid attacks to be treated as attempted murder and to be prosecuted by courts, not tribal leaders. This resolution, however, has no legally binding force. The national government should implement legislation to this effect.
On a grassroots level, an Indian NGO has established women’s support groups in villages. This has been particularly empowering for the women, many of whom were newcomers to the village. These women have used the power of collective action to protect their rights. In these villages, wives have threatened to collectively leave the village if there are any instances of bride burning. (See: Negotiating Culture: Intersections of Culture and Violence Against Women in Asia Pacific, 2006, p. 34) (See: Honor Crimes; Dowry-related Violence)
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