The hellish nature of acid attacks calls for a fitting response
THE victim of a grotesque acid attack in Rawang, Selangor, has succumbed to her injuries three weeks after the incident. With burns on her face -- as a result of which she was blinded and unable to speak -- and upper body, she slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness. This fatal attack by robbers after her necklace is now a murder case. While tragic, there is now no ambiguity as to the cruelty inflicted and the punishment that will be meted out to the murderers. Unfortunately though, the spate of acid attacks in recent years, some random for purposes of robbery and others premeditated for many reasons, often personal, have had far-reaching consequences for the poor victims. That the expression "poor victims" is understated cannot be denied.
As in an Iranian case, for example, where an unspeakably egotistical male, unable to handle a rejection, resorted to an acid attack blinding and maiming a young woman for life. She is now undergoing many reconstructive surgeries. There, where the laws of Syariah rule, qisas allows for an eye-for-an-eye retribution and only the victim may save the convicted. And that she did, insisting on blood money instead. Nevertheless, she wrestled long before deciding. If not for her last-minute decision, the man would have had his vision surgically removed. Herein is the paradox. The pain and suffering caused by acid attacks is too horrendous to find adequate expression in mere words. Is then not the qisas punishment appropriate? Obviously, the victim cannot bring herself to sue for vengeance and opted instead for a measure of forgiveness.
In Malaysia, the offence, considered an assault, has brought judgments of eight years imprisonment and strokes of the rotan for the perpetrator in the attack on two brothers, who, between them, underwent 23 reconstructive surgeries as a consequence. It does not bear thinking that wicked people can continue their lives unscathed after serving jail time when victims are scarred for life both physically and psychologically. There have been calls for regulating the sale of corrosive substances. This would indeed go some way towards making detection of offenders easier. But these substances are widely used commercially and in homes. Without a more effective deterrent, this vengeful crime of passion especially targeting women, might not be stopped. Because qisas is, given today's values, considered extreme, a middle-of-the-road approach is perhaps called for in this country. Those who are tempted to inflict life-long suffering on others must be punished in a way that reflects the inhumanity which spurs the crime.