Free Reconstructive Surgeries For Acid Attack Victims: India’s Apex Court Orders Medical And Monetary Support

India’s apex court, called Supreme Court of India, has ordered free reconstructive surgeries apart from monetary and medical support for “acid attack” victims.

Those disfigured by chemical assaults, commonly referred to as “acid attacks,” will now be entitled to state subsidized facial reconstructive surgeries. Apart from the plastic surgery “wherever required,” these victims — most of whom are young girls — will be entitled to monetary and medical assistance.

It’s one of the cruelest forms of crime that is shockingly common in many African and Asian countries: hurling acid on a person’s face with a malicious intent of causing physical disfigurement. The perpetrators, mostly young men who have faced rejection, commit such barbaric acts with a clear intention of ruining the facial features of the girl, rendering her unsuitable for marriage.

Acid attack victims not just endure facial disfigurement, but many lose their eyesight due to the erosive chemical that is quite commonly available, despite bans. As per official records, as many as 1,500 people are attacked with acid every year, and this number is growing.

Most of them are women and girls, often ones who have rejected a marriage proposal or sexual advance, while others are accused of bringing shame to their families. They are left struggling with medical bills and a life hobbled by disability. To date, victims of acid attacks have futilely fought with the judiciary to seek medical assistance and have only met with government apathy.

Coming to the aid of the acid attack victims, India’s Supreme Court has taken landmark steps to make things a little easier for recovering survivors. Last week, the court ordered all hospitals within the country, especially those operating on government funds, to treat acid attack victims for free. These victims will be entitled to free food, medicine, and reconstructive surgeries.

As an added measure to ensure the states step up their efforts to ensure safety of women, the Supreme Court of India has also decreed that state governments must pay victims a minimum compensation of 300,000 rupees ($4,800).

In its scathing notation, the apex court categorically mentioned, “We find that amount will not be burdensome. But it could mean a lot to individual victims in a country where the median per capita income is barely over $600 per year.”

Though rarely fatal, acid attack victims have to endure a life of shame and general apathy. Survivors often need multiple reconstructive surgeries to regain even a shred of normalcy. Additionally, they need access to a holistic program of medical support, rehabilitation, and advocacy. Those needing support are often ostracized from their communities, making it difficult or impossible to earn a living or find social acceptance.

Though the Supreme Court of India has taken some much-needed steps for acid attack victims, a lot needs to be done to prevent such brutal attacks from happening in the first place, caution medical experts.

[Image Credit | Rahul Saharam]