For the first time, an Indian court has sentenced a man to death for attacking a woman with acid.
In 2013, Ankur Panwar attacked Preeti Rathi at a train station in Mumbai, throwing two liters of sulfuric acid on her. Her eyes, stomach and lungs were severely damaged, and she died of her injuries a month later.
The attack, though horrific, was not isolated. Although reliable numbers are difficult to verify, the Indian government said that there were 83 attacks in 2011, 85 in 2012 and 66 in 2013, based on data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau. That number surged to 309 in 2014 and 222 in 2015. However, acid survivor groups say the numbers are higher still. The Acid Survivors Trust International, for instance, estimates that there are 1000 acid attacks every year; other campaigners put the figure at closer to 400 a month.
The attacks are nearly always perpetrated against women by men. While motivations vary, they are usually an act of revenge after a woman rejects a romantic advance. However, cases of professional jealousy or family squabbles can also motivate an attack.
Panwar’s case mirrored the traditional motivation: The victim had declined his marriage proposal and he was attacking out of revenge.
Acid survivor groups have been lobbying to spread awareness of acid attacks, and make the sale of acid more difficult. In 2013, the Supreme Court of India passed a ruling regulating the sale of concentrated acid in shops. The ruling prohibited the sale of acid to minors, and required store owners to register the details of purchasers.
However, it is dubious whether those regulations are being followed. “This is the first time
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