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Laws on acid violence is long overdue

Feature Article Laws on acid violence is long overdue
DEC 12, 2015 LISTEN

For some time now, the spate of acid attacks in the country is alarming. The recent murder of a family of five as a result of acid violence in the Eastern Region, threw the entire nation into a state of shock and mourning.

The sad event is believed to have been masterminded by a 50-year-old father, Kwesi Asare, who committed suicide after allegedly killing his wife and three children with concentrated acid in New Juaben.

According to some neighbours who overheard the couple exchanging words, Asare had on one occasion threatened to kill his wife during a short quarrel. Meanwhile, the cause of this unfortunate incidence still remains a mystery.

ACID is the acronym for four properties of a transaction processing: Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability. Acids are dangerous chemicals that can dissolve other materials such as metals. Some examples are hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, and sulfuric acid.

The effects of acid reaction on human body are severe; the corrosive substance can burn through layers of the skin and cause damage to vital organs. When acid comes into contact with the skin, it can cause disfigurement of the face, permanent loss of eyesight, and even lead to death.

Most often than not, victims of acid assault are women. It is estimated that more than 90% cases of acid violence in Ghana were as a result of ill-relationships, rivalry or misunderstanding between male and female lovers.

For example, a 19-year-old Vivian Adomako was mercilessly disfigured with acid by her 22-year-old jobless boyfriend who got offended that she called off their relationship.

Thirty-two year-old seamstress, Henrietta Amoah, lost her sight when her fiancé poured a bucket of concentrated acid on her. Similarly, 22-year-old Anita Otema lost one of her eyes and sustained injuries on her thighs, arms and neck when her boyfriend assaulted her with acid.

The Director of National Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and Burns Centre at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr. Opoku Ware Ampomah, has confirmed that the number of acid assault cases keeps fluctuating and, in some instances, the victims did not survive the burns.

Most women who survive acid attacks lose their beauty because plastic surgery, alone, cannot restore their original looks. Acid burns can dampen the confidence of affected ladies and make it difficult to find suitors.

In the first place, why should lethal substances such as acid or DDT be available in the open markets to all manner of persons? Who monitors or regulates the sale of deadly chemicals in the country?

It is unfortunate to admit that there are no specific laws in Ghana that regulate the sale of dangerous chemicals, especially concentrated sulphuric, hydrochloric, and nitrate acids.

The prevalence of acid violence is a global challenge. In the UK for instance, a 23-year-old English beautician, Adele Bellis, lost one of her ears and was left partially bald when her ex-fiancé, Anthony Riley, poured sulphuric acid over her in 2014.

Subsequently, Riley was sentenced to life with a minimum of 13years in prison in October 2015. Indeed, this is justice for the deformed Caucasian who launched a campaign to educate young adults about the effects of ill-relationship.

In Colombia, statistics revealed that over 100 cases of acid attacks were recorded annually. And it is, for this reason, among others, that the Colombian legislature passed a law to impose harsher sentences on acid violence related offences.

The law was named after Natalia Ponce, a young Colombian lady, who was severely assaulted with acid by a man in March 2014. Under the law, anyone charged with the offence of physical aggression or acid assault will serve a minimum sentence of 12years or a maximum of 50 years in prison.

The global phenomenon of acid violence is relatively higher in countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, and Pakistan. Consequently, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Cambodia played key advocacy roles against acid violence through legislative reforms in 2002, 2011, and 2012 respectively.

In view of that, the above-mentioned countries recorded decreased cases of acid attacks the subsequent years.

As a matter of fact, the first step towards the fight against acid violence should be legislative reforms aimed at regulating the use or sale of hazardous chemicals. Furthermore, harsher punishment such as higher custodial sentences should be imposed on defaulters.

The legislature of Ghana and other stakeholders should emulate their Colombian counterpart by enacting similar laws on acid aggression. That way, the criminal code can be amended to handle cases of acid abuse. “A stitch in time saves nine”, they say.

Regrettably, when people assault others with acid, they go into hiding and after a while the case fades away without recourse to justice. The time for government to pass laws on this category of physical aggression is long overdue.

The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection should team up with the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ghana Police Service and the Attorney-General Department in order to protect the rights and safety of the vulnerable, since vast majority of acid victims are females.

It is welcoming news that the death of the Upper East Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party, Adams Mahama, who was brutally attacked with acid, is being investigated as the court continues with the trial proceedings in order to bring the culprits to book.

In the same vein, the death of a Nigerian nursing student in Accra who suffered acid brutality for refusing to join a syndicate of narcotic dealers should not be swept under the carpet. This is a murder case and the rule of laws must administer justice accordingly.

Some social commentators have proposed life imprisonment for acid attackers, since the survivors or victims will have to live with the deformity for the rest of their lives.

In my opinion, acid violence should be classified as a major offence and, as such, must call for higher sentences not excluding life imprisonment to serve as a deterrent to others.

ASP James Annan
Gt. Accra Regional PRO
Senior Correctional Centre
[email protected]

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