Acid-Attackers Should Get Life Imprisonment

By Josepha Jabo

By Josepha Jabo
(608 Words)
It is always upsetting to see pictures of acid victims in the newspapers because the damage done is usually irreversible. I was hurt by images of the most recent victims of acid-assaults, Pastor Umar Mulinde in December and Makerere University Student, Lynette Kirungi this month.
Uganda is not the only country where acid-violence is a problem. It is also a problem in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Vietnam. In Uganda, the NGO, Acid Survivors’ Foundation Uganda (ASFU) has been providing solace to acid-burn victims over the years.
Since society judges people by their physical appearance and we live in a world where ‘image is everything’, people naturally want to look good or at least presentable. Therefore, acid-attackers deliberately target the victim’s face. Consequently, the acid victim feels suicidal because of the visage being irreparably disfigured. Even with plastic or reconstructive surgery it is very difficult for the victim’s face to be restored exactly as it was before. Besides suffering severe pain from the deep burns inflicted by the acid, acid-victims suffer rejection and sometimes total or partial blindness and deafness if the acid entering the eyes and ears! Acid-throwing is a malicious and wicked act. It is a vindictive way to ‘solve’ conflicts that have arisen out of jealousy, misunderstandings, marital affairs, business rivalry, unpaid debts and the like. What makes acid throwing particularly evil and inhumane is it is never accidental but always pre-mediated.
According to Wikipedia, the online Encyclopedia, ‘Lower House of Parliament in Pakistan unanimously passed the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill On May 10, 2011. As punishment, according to the bill individuals held responsible for acid throwing face harsh fines and life in prison.’
Currently, in Uganda, the minimum penalty for acid-throwing is 5 years imprisonment while the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. The judgment or sentence will depend on the extent of the injury and the magistrate’s decision. Depending on the gravity of the offence and if malicious intention can be proved, one can be prosecuted on a range of charges from occasioning grievous bodily harm to attempted murder hence the varying degrees of penalties upon conviction.
Nevertheless, 40 acid-burn victims were admitted in Mulago Hospital between November 15, 2011 and December 22, 2011. This is alarming. This record alone shows people who mastermind acid-attacks are not deterred by the existing law and are increasingly turning to acid as the preferred weapon of choice. This is because, even if caught, not every acid-attacker will necessarily get life-imprisonment. The attacker might serve a lesser sentence in prison and might even be prepared to do so as long as has he the satisfaction of knowing he got his revenge on his victim. However, all acid-attackers (those who throw sulphuric, battery, nitric or hydrochloric acid including those who mastermind the acid-attack) ought to get life imprisonment in prison because an acid-attack is an assault on the victim’s life and in some cases the acid-victim dies. While acid-survivors will be scarred-for-life (suffering with physical and psychological scars) the acid-attacker will live the rest of his or her life scar-free. Therefore, having one sentence ‘life’ (as opposed to a penalty that is so wide-ranging) will serve as strong deterrent to curb this crime.
Concurrently, the Police should be more vigilant to ensure that acid does not fall into the hands of criminal elements. A stringent law restricting the sale and distribution of acid by acid vendors is necessary. Likewise, I implore the Uganda Parliament to pass a bill to this effect to curb this heinous crime.
The Writer works for Uganda Media Centre