Chhapaak, a film about acid attacks in India, hits theatres tomorrow: Here’s what you need to know about chemical burns
It takes a special kind of courage to stand up in the face of adversity, and demand reform - not just justice for yourself, but also laws to prevent similar incidents marring the lives of others in the future. It is this remarkable courage that sets apart Laxmi Agarwal, 29, an acid attack victim and activist. Deepika Padukone-starrer Chhapaak, releasing tomorrow, is the story of Laxmi’s life and efforts to prevent the over-the-counter sale of acid in the country.
Born and brought up in Delhi, Laxmi was just 15 when a spurned suitor, Nadeem Khan aka Guddu, 32, threw acid on her. This was in 2005. Her face and body suffered major chemical burns. But as soon as she recovered a little, she filed a public interest litigation (PIL) to prevent the sale of acid in India. As a campaigner for Stop Acid Attacks and Stop Sale Acid, Laxmi has been leading the fight against this crime.
Acid attacks can take a severe toll on the physical and mental health of survivors. Here’s why Laxmi’s story, and by extension, director Meghna Gulzar’s movie, should inspire more of us to actively join in the fight against acid attacks and violence against women.
— Laxmi (@TheLaxmiAgarwal) December 10, 2019
Acid attacks and chemical burns
Acid attack is one of the most heinous crimes against women, and it is prevalent across South Asian countries like India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data show that 148 new cases of acid attacks were reported in India in 2017. The NCRB has not released any data about acid attacks since 2017, and organisations like the National Council of Women believe that getting actual data is impossible since many victims don’t even report them.
Acid attacks are, of course, traumatic and can even lead to loss of life in severe cases. What an acid attack results in are chemical burns. Chemical burns are essentially divided into three degrees:
- First-degree burn or superficial injury, where the burn is restricted to the top layer of the skin, called the epidermis.
- Second-degree burn or dermal injury, where the second layer of the skin or dermis gets burned.
- Third-degree burn or full-thickness injury, where the third layer of the skin or subcutaneous tissue is injured.
If the acid enters the body through the mouth or nose, then it can cause further damage by affecting or scarring the organs.
The Supreme Court of India, acting on Laxmi’s PIL, has restricted the sale of acid in the country and made acid attacks a non-bailable offence. But these burns can also be caused by everyday products available over-the-counter in stores.
It can only be hoped that Chhapaak will deter future attackers, by explaining the extent of damage they could cause.
How to treat chemical burns
Here’s what you need to do if you are a witness to or victim of an acid attack:
- Call the police and an ambulance immediately, because timely medical attention is required.
- It’s of the utmost importance to flush the chemical irritant off of the skin quickly. The affected areas should be washed very gently with running water for 10-20 minutes.
- If the irritant has reached the eyes, then they also need to be washed for at least 20 minutes, and medical care is a must.
- Any clothing or jewellery items that have been in touch with the acid need to be removed immediately.
- Get the acid off again if the initial wash did not stop the burning sensation completely.
- The medical team will analyse the degree of burns and recommend the treatment accordingly. For minor burns, they will provide ointments, and ask you to keep the affected areas covered with a sterile bandage or gauze.
- If the burns are too severe or have caused severe disfigurement, then the survivor might need reconstructive surgery.
The mental health aspect
While dealing with the burns is difficult, there’s a long battle after it as well and this has to do with the mental wellbeing of the survivor and her rehabilitation. Remember that the intent behind the acid attack was to maim, torture or kill the survivor - and being at the receiving end of such immense hate, one that’s especially visible through the burns will leave a huge mark on the survivor's life.
Add to this the idea of beauty and the importance laid on looks, and any woman who has faced disfigurement due to an acid attack is at the risk of losing her confidence and self-esteem. This can lead to a survivor’s guilt and clinical depression, so psychological counselling of survivors is compulsory.
It’s equally important to build a support system that can help the survivor cope with the repercussions of an acid attack. Friends and family members need to play a primary role in reaffirming the survivor’s faith in life, setting new goals that the survivor can accomplish and helping them through the counselling process. This circle of people are well-placed to instil a sense of self-worth and confidence in the survivor, and need to refrain from ever using derogatory language or fatalistic remarks about how “her life is now ruined” and “she has no future without her looks”.
Further support needs to be medical and legal. The survivor will have to battle health complications due to the degree of her burns, so building a trustworthy network of healthcare providers is very important. But nothing will help an acid-attack survivor’s mental health more than justice, so she must be given legal support that can put her attackers behind bars for the rest of their lives. This support can be given by lawyers, activists and other survivors like Laxmi who have made justice for acid-attack survivors the purpose of their lives.
Supporting the rights of acid-attack survivors is as important as making sure that they are not marginalised in society because of the way they look. That’s what you need to remember to help these women rehabilitate in society, especially in professional spaces.
For more on this topic, please read our article on Burns.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
The information provided here is intended to provide free education about certain medical conditions and certain possible treatment. It is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis, treatment, and medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. If you believe you, your child or someone you know suffers from the conditions described herein, please see your health care provider immediately. Do not attempt to treat yourself, your child, or anyone else without proper medical supervision. You acknowledge and agree that neither myUpchar nor firstpost is liable for any loss or damage which may be incurred by you as a result of the information provided here, or as a result of any reliance placed by you on the completeness, accuracy or existence of any information provided herein.
Updated Date: Jan 09, 2020 13:13:25 IST
Tags : Acid Attack, Acid Attack Movie, Chemical Burn Treatment, Chemical Burn Treatment Eye, Chhapaak, Chhapaak Movie, Deepika Padukone, Deepika Padukone Chhapaak, Deepika Padukone Film, Laxmi Agarwal, NewsTracker, Stop Acid Attacks, Stop Sale Acid
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