LONDON: India has one of the highest rates of acid violence in the world, yet a backlog of criminal cases means it can take up to a decade for courts to reach a judgment and most victims receive no compensation, legal experts said on Wednesday.
Globally, there are as many as 1,500 recorded acid attacks each year with more than 1,000 cases estimated to occur in India alone. However, many attacks go unreported because victims are too afraid of reprisals to come forward, they said in a report.
The majority of victims are women, attacked over domestic or land disputes, a rejected marriage proposal or spurned sexual advances, the report said.
Attackers frequently target the head and face to maim, disfigure and blind, said Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), which commissioned the report. Victims are left with lifelong physical and psychological scars.
Despite the severity of the crime, acid remains easily available in India where it is used in manufacturing and the processing of cotton and rubber, despite a 2013 Supreme Court order to curb sales.
“Acid is still very, very easily available and a litre of acid can be purchased for as little as 50 pence ($0.75) — and can be bought in most towns and villages in India,” ASTI Executive Director Jaf Shah said.
India made acid attacks a specific criminal offence in 2013, and the Supreme Court this year ruled that victims should receive free medical treatment and minimum compensation of 300,000 rupees ($4,500). Analysing 55 cases of acid violence in India, the report, based on research done in 2014, found that on average it takes between five and 10 years for a legal case to be concluded.