The Patriarchy in Acid Attacks

By Kabir 

“DID you hurt a woman today;

I have to ask these obscene questions…”

This couplet from the poem of famous American author and poet Ntozake Shange defines the plight of women in our society. The daily trauma they wake up and sleep with. As the horrendous and despicable crimes against women are seeing an uncontrollable spiral these questions need to be asked. As if the world has come to an end for the women. They fear and don’t feel safe anywhere even in their own houses with their own families.

In deeply patriarchal conservative societies, women have been the victims of inequality since time immemorial. They have been reduced to the object of honour for the families and will have to bind by the wishes and whims of the families without their own identity. In such a male dominated setup, women occupy a disadvantaged position. Therefore, crimes against women are primarily instances of domination and control. Even sexual violence against women stems from this skewed power equation.

Acid attack is one of such barbaric crimes unleashed on women which comes from the belief of domination. This is a social phenomenon that is deeply embedded in a gender hierarchy based on patriarchal control over women. It manifests the historical inequality, domination and discrimination against women. The social structure created has resulted in torture and assault on the voices of challenge. The barbarity against women is the byproduct of that patriarchal mindset to keep women in their place. The perpetrators are motivated and driven by the idea of domination.

Although acid attack is a crime which can be committed against any individual but mostly the targets of these attacks are women especially young ones. The major reason for these attacks is women refusing to bow and challenging the prevailing social order. Thus, acid throwing is an act of revenge motivated by anger and jealousy. The main aim of these attacks is to inflict physical and mental pain on the victim.

This was exactly what transpired yesterday in the case of the Hawal acid attack case. According to Police which has now arrested three in the case, the accused had pursued the victim who had declined his engagement proposal. This had motivated the crime that was executed with the help of two affiliates.

While it may seem like a simple case of anger motivated crime, it can be fundamentally explained by how men see any attack on their power as an opportunity to resist through inflicting punishment on the opposite gender.

Expressing outrage, anger and demanding punishments through social media amounts to lip service only until the next incident of barbarity takes place. The incidents of domestic abuse, honour killings, harassment, acid throwing won't happen until we move beyond the rhetoric and begin to challenge the deeply patriarchal social order in our homes and societies.

Even that won’t be enough until we open our hearts and minds for the victims of gendered violence. The victims always find it tough to survive after incidents of violence, they feel the othering and isolation due to the victim blaming. We always end up blaming victims until proven otherwise. Again, this comes from the same mindset of domination. There must be compensation, counselling and rehabilitation for them. We must own them and open our doors for them. We need to think beyond criminal justice and focus on victim justice.

Currently we can begin with resting our hot takes on such incidents, hang our heads in shame, let the women speak, hear them, accept the bitter truths and anger from them.


Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

Kabir is a student and can be reached at @kabir_writes on Twitter

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