Apart from laws, societal change is a must to end acid attacks which are an outcome of some men’s desire to demonstrate power and savagery

Eighteen-year-old Samjhana Das, an acid attack victim, died on Sunday night while undergoing treatment in Kathmandu. Ram Babu Paswan, 50, along with a group of people, had thrown acid at Samjhana and her sister Sushmita, 15, on the night of September 11 when they were sleeping in their house in Chandrapur Municipality, Rautahat. Samjhana was attacked with acid because she had rejected the 50-year-old man’s marriage proposal. Nothing can be absurd than this. Samjhana, according to doctors, had received deep burns on her body—around 35 per cent of her body was affected. This incident comes amid rising cases of sexual assaults on girls and women. Acid attacks, rapes and sexual assaults are heinous crimes and they should be dealt with swiftly and sternly. A rise in cases of sexual violence and acid attacks is a major cause for concern, and there is a need of dealing with such incidents swiftly and sternly. Back in 2015, a 20-year-old boy had thrown acid at two girls in Jhonchhe, Kathmandu because one of them had spurned him. The Supreme Court then had ordered the government to regulate production, sales and distribution of acids. But there has been no progress in this regard.

Concentrated acids are used widely in industries, while some of them are also used for household purposes. But their easy availability has turned them into a weapon for some men—perpetrators of acid violence are almost always men—who took umbrage at being spurned. Many boys and men still think they should have control over the girls and women and their bodies. This is unacceptable. In acid attack cases, the aim of the perpetrators is to subjugate girls and women and show them who is in charge. The intention is to disfigure the victims, yet another manifestation of the patriarchal mindset that a girl or woman’s appearance is her only asset.

Nepal has criminalised acid attacks. But legislation is only the first step and that’s not enough. Societal change is what is needed to put an end to acid attacks. Whether it’s a sexual assault or acid violence, it is an outcome of toxic masculinity of boys and men who harbour the desire to demonstrate their power and savagery. Acid attack survivors, whose appearance changes overnight, go through a lifelong ordeal; the psychological scars take the longest to heal, sometimes they never heal. They live in constant fear, for the lack of effective treatment, relief and rehabilitation programmes shakes their confidence. On social front, they face grave challenges, as acid attacks usually make them disabled, increasing their dependence. One of the key preventive strategies to end acid violence is launching strong education programmes for boys and men. While the government should run campaigns in massive scales to fight sexual violence and acid attacks, families and communities should work together for societal changes. Sensitizing boys and men to the effects of sexual violence and acid attacks can be a key step. Strict regulation of chemicals, strong laws, and effective treatment, relief and rehabilitation schemed are a must. Concerted efforts are required from the state, law enforcement agencies, NGOs and communities to end the horrendous crimes like acid attack. Eliminating the scourge is everyone’s duty.

Tiger population

It is good news that tiger population has increased by 37 in the last four years with the total number of Royal Bengal tigers across the country now standing at recorded at 235. It is, however, a matter of serious concern that tiger population has declined in the Chitwan National Park (CNP) to 93 from 120. CNP authorities have said as many as 17 tigers died in the park over the last four years.

The government has said there are 18 wild cats in Parsa Reserve, 21 in Banke National Park, 87 in Bardiya National Park and 16 in Suklaphanta National Park. Around 4,000 tigers roamed globally in the wilderness in 13 countries. In 2010, Nepal had signed the “Global Recovery Tiger Plan” at the Global Tiger Conference held that year in St Petersburg, Russia. Nepal and other participating countries had vowed to double the tiger population by 2022. Nepal is still short of 15 adult tigers to meet the target of increasing their number to 250 by 2022. In view of declining number of tigers in CNP, the government must devise special plans to protect their habitat to add to their number as per its international commitment.