Tens of thousands of women are attacked and burned with acid, kerosene, gas or alcohol every year, yet ignorance about the long-term impact of their injuries means few receive support to rebuild their lives, a non-profit said.
The Chennai-based International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC), which works with victims of domestic violence, said burn attacks are one of the worst forms of violence against women.
Not only do many victims suffer deformities and disfigurement, they also face trauma and low self-esteem, and lack the will to continue with their lives, it added.
PCVC said even though victims in India received medical treatment, there was little else in terms of support — leaving many to cope alone with the dramatic changes to their lives.
“With no disrespect to other forms of violence against women, those who suffer from burns suffer uniquely because of overt social stigma and family rejection, many of them doubly so because they are poor, uneducated or unskilled,” said PCVC Founder and CEO Prasanna Gettu.
Ms Gettu, who was speaking at the launch of a handbook and national helpline to support burn victims, said it was essential to provide psycho-social, legal and financial help for victims.
There is no accurate data on the number of people suffering burn injuries in India. A June 2016 medical paper published on the science website, Researchgate, estimates there are seven million injuries every year — resulting in 140,000 deaths.
The paper said women account for 65 per cent of deaths caused by burn injuries. Although some deaths are due to accidents in the kitchen or house fires, many result from domestic violence.
Newspapers often report cases of women being attacked with acid by jilted partners or being doused in kerosene and then set alight by their husbands or in-laws in rows over dowry.
Activists say most attacks against women using acid, kerosene or alcohol are perpetrated by husbands, partners or other families. But they also say some women are driven to self-immolation or suicide by some form of abuse