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TikTok influencer Faizal Siddiqui may have issued an apology for his video that seemingly promoted acid attacks but does that help against glorification?
Today, social media may be seen as an extension of our everyday lives, what we display online could have direct repercussions offline. In a society where crimes against women continue to prevail, Faiz Siddiqui’s TikTok video only exacerbates this issue further.
The video has since been removed off the app, and Siddiqui has made an attempt at an apology, however, the video and its message still disgust one.
I found my heart sinking and my stomach crawling when I watched the video for the first time. The video shows him throwing some liquid at a woman, who left him for another man.
Given how the liquid is transparent and the woman’s face after he throws it at her, one can only assume it is acid. What’s more is the woman, who Siddiqui (in his apology) claimed was a make-up artist looks horrified and her face seems to sport make-up that looked suspiciously like burns.
What struck me was also the clout and fame that Faizal Siddiqui accumulated, with a following of nearly 13.4 million on TikTok. From dance videos and memes to toxic frat culture, it has generated a great following and expression of toxic and damaging behaviour since its inception. This video goes from simply being a TikTok video to a chilling and haunting reality of India’s acid attacks.
The Chief of the National Commission of Women (NCW), Rekha Sharma requested TikTok India to ensure the removal of the video from the app. She even wrote to the police, informing them of the heinous crime the video seemed to communicate.
One step forward, two steps back?
On one hand, we are making some progress towards addressing rape culture and violence against women in India. But on the other, we seem to be regressing further. The video comes at a time when the Bois’ Locker room cast questions on the entrenched and internalised culture of rape, misogyny and toxic masculinity within us.
The easy sale of acids can perhaps be dated back to the 19th century when it was used to bleach and dry cloth. Due to the high demand, acid became easily and readily available commercially. And thanks to this, throwing acid on a person are a form of gender-violence, mostly seen in India.
To me, acid attacks are also a type of symbolic violence against women. They are a visual representation of toxic masculinity, where women are immediately silenced and suppressed.
We take away a woman’s voice and how she presents herself to the world, and in a society where women are solely judged by outward appearances. Attackers believe that it is a swift attack on her honour and dignity, making her condemned to a life of isolation, stigma, and hate.
The high visibility of an acid attack is irreparable and lasting as it leaves both physical and mental scars on the survivors. They not only face the ostracisation that comes from the disfigurement of their faces but also disabilities. These include lasting visual and auditory impairments and breathing difficulties which could be a potential threat to their lives. Meanwhile, recovery processes are often expensive and the government compensations rarely reach or benefit the them.
Undoing the stigma associated with acid attack survivors remains crucial. Acid attack survivor, Reshma Qureshi is working with the charity ‘Make Love, Not Scars’ who offer support and legal advice to victims. Another survivor, Laxmi Agarwal is taking the time during the lockdown to reach out to victims of domestic abuse and hate.
Acid attacks are yet another heinous crime and violence against women in the country. At the same time, it is important to call out and condemn the contents and latent message in this video and other similar ones. The trivialisation of acid attacks is abhorrent simply as we fail to recognise the depth and magnitude of a system of abuse when we glorify such crimes.
Unfortunately, as a nation, we still see at least one acid a day, with many perhaps even going unreported. This makes us the country with the most number of acid attacks, and the least number of convictions.
According to Tania Singh, the CEO of Make Love, Not Scars, the real figure of acid attack cases may be closer to about a thousand. These crimes are often shoved under the rug if perpetrated by relatives or close family members or if the women choose not to implicate them.
Activists working closely with acid attack victims claimed that only five percent of those accused are actually convicted of the crime. For instance, out of the 228 aggregate acid attack cases reported in 2018, there was a final conviction in only one case. Yet, most attackers often have to wait between 5-10 years for a conviction
Women who are survivors of acid attacks are often relegated to the fringes of society as they remain societal outcasts. They face a great deal of social exclusion and remain vulnerable to harassment and sexual violence. Many even struggle to find hospitals that treat acid burns as they have limited resources.
Bangladesh is another nation where acid attacks are quite prevalent. However, the government finally imposed laws that curtail the sale of common chemicals and even call on death penalty against the attackers. Yet, the gaps in India’s legal system make it more complex for a similar improvement to unfold.
During the Preethi Rathi case, the attacker was given the death penalty at a sessions court. However, there was still a way to appeal to higher courts and overturn the charges.
Legislation about this crime remains vague and laws to curb the escalation of thee attacks must be a greater priority. Acid attacks are registered under Section 326A of the Indian Penal Code with a minimum punishment for up to ten years imprisonment. Yet, judges often refrain from charging attackers.
Overall, when the grim realities of acid attack still continue to persist remain a critical issue, this video only normalises deeply entrenched issues. It emphasises how we continue to fail victims by overlooking gendered violence simply because it appears on a social media feed, accompanied by 100,000 likes and re-shares.
Picture credits: Instagram and YouTube
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Shivani is currently an undergraduate political science student who is passionate about human rights and
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