HYDERABAD: For acid-attack victims, the trauma doesn’t end with surgery and treatment. Their past continues to haunt them, especially when the perpetrators go scotfree. However, what can a woman do when she is still legally wedded to her assaulter?
Twenty-one-year-old Zehreen (name changed) has been struggling to divorce a man that had allegedly hired supari killers to attack her with acid. The men hired for the job were, however, not able to find her; it was Zehreen’s mother whose face was splashed with acid. This was in June 2018.
Zehreen had been in an abusive marriage for over two years by then. She was living away from her husband when, a few days before Eid last year, he called her home. She refused to come back. Little did she know that her rejection would cost her so much.
A few days later, strange visitors came to her house. “It was so bizarre. Two young men kept circling our house; they asked for my brother twice in day. The third time, however, they asked for me. My mother knew something wasn’t right about these men,” she recalled.
What happened next, changed the family’s life - they splashed acid across her mother’s face, to clear the way and get to Zehreen. Her mother instinctively ran inside and shut the doors to save her daughter even as the acid ate her face away. “I remember her screaming, the acid trickling down from her forehead to her nose, burning every piece of skin it found.”
Zehreen’s mother suffered 3rd degree burns with 16% burns on her forehead, hands and neck and has had two surgeries since.
“He used to tell me my face was too pretty and I would lure men with it. I would not know he would get so bloodthirsty that he would try and ruin it,” says Zehreen. Though her husband was arrested within two days of the incident, along with the two men, for allegedly hatching a premeditated acid attack by Kanchanbagh police, Zehreen’s family saw no relief.
After the incident, her father couldn’t work for 2 months as he had to accompany her mother for treatment. To make things worse, the alleged perpetrators were given bail soon after the incident. Driven by fear for her life, Zehreen dropped out of her beautician course. Eventually, she went ahead and got her 4-year-old child withdrawn from pre-school. But what’s most painful, she says, is the fact that she is still married to him.
“We took the route of Qula to annul the marriage, yet he refused to sign the papers,” says Zehreen. Though her husband has married again, he has refused to pay her maintenance her or divorce her and has insisted her to withdraw the criminal case of acid attack.
“I requested the police many times to coerce him into signing divorce papers, but they say they are helpless. They said they would book him under PD Act, but we haven’t heard anything from them,” says Zehreen.