Acid Attack: mental illness, or a societal problem?

  • September 8, 2019

L to R: Muskan Khatun, Jenny Khadka, Samjhana Das (deceased) Images: BVS – Nepal

On Friday morning, an innocent girl making her way to school ‘screamed’ – someone threw ‘hot, burning’ acid on her face. The news exploded – lots of others screamed – give that perpetrator a ‘life-sentence’, or even ‘capital punishment’.

We understand the sentiment – it is anger, it boils because despite repeated attempts, a simple message does not go across. But then we sit to really think about it – is this an individual problem, or society’s problem at large?

Was the victim suffering from a mental illness? And that confining him for life is the solution?  Or is it a small pixel of a larger picture? For example, say how does his confinement guarantee some other person will not fling acid at another girl?

A befitting punishment could possibly be a big deterrent, but is that enough to curtail the issue? Is it time we raised other questions when discussing ‘rising acid attacks in Nepal?’

We ask the question because in this particular incident, and the past two attacks (Jenny Khadka and Samjhana Das) – the perpetrators were enraged because the victim rejected their romantic/sexual advances. Therefore, begging us to question, why weren’t these boys able to cope with rejection, and why for them, ‘harming’ was the only way their bruised egos could be repaired?

Does the problem boil down to ‘toxic masculinity’?

Toxic masculinity can be loosely defined as cultural norms which place males as superior figures – it is not intended to demonise men or male attributes , but to emphasize upon the detrimental effects of conforming to a traditional masculine ideal. Toxic masculinity, many a times is subconsciously formed, because of our direct exposure towards it – family structure, societal expectations, consumption of media, being a few.

Therefore the question – did the perpetrator not know better? And are we, as a society at fault for his actions?

Note: The article has been deliberately left loose ended  – partly because we ourselves do not know the right answer, and also because rather than imposing our views we would wish you discuss the issue.

Criticisms are welcome.