Photo Source: The Guardian
"She rejected my proposal."
"That piece of land was ours!"
"She took immense pride in her beauty."
Acid attack is pervasive. It won't be wrong to say that it is embedded in the way society thinks and speaks. While the context may differ, acid attack is horrific and rooted in patriarchal beliefs, power, and control.
"Men threw acid on a woman while she was returning to women's hostel in Lucknow."
"A woman with her daughter was stepping out when a known man emerged out of nowhere. Before they could react, he threw acid on the girl. Her mother ran in front of her, and he flung it on her too. It took both of them a few minutes to realize it was acid."
"The frightful rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl have left numerous Indians in pain."
Although the sale of acid on the counter was banned in 2013, still India tops the charts when it comes to acid attacks. There is no denying that acid attacks are the most gruesome crimes that not only cause deadly physical trauma but severe psychological and emotional trauma as well. In a country like India, acid attacks are a huge problem where the victims are mostly female. On the one hand, the survivor has to perpetually fight with their traumas, self-acceptance, social behavior, and medical issues. On the other hand, the family keeps struggling to get justice.
"3 minor Dalit sisters faced serious burn injuries after an unidentified person threw acid on them.”
In the above-mentioned case- the eldest sister, who was 17 years old, was all set to get married and, preparations were going on. The parents mentioned no enmity. But, it was estimated to be another spine-chilling case of patriarchy. Over the past few years, acid attacks have grown to become the weapon of patriarchy.
In a patriarchal society like India, vanishing, and destroying a woman's looks can lead to no access to marriage, education, resources, and work opportunities. Such hideous crimes also take place because of caste-related indifferences, where upper-caste men exploit the “honor” of the Dalit family by ruining their woman's identities and faces.
According to a report by the Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), the majority of acid attack victims are women. The reasons usually are domestic or land disputes. Some attacks happen over dowry demands or revenge. But the majority of cases reported for over a decade now, it's because a young girl/woman turned down sexual advances or rejected a marriage proposal from a man.
That scene from the movie "Chhapaak" still gives us goosebumps every time we think about it. The moment, "Malti" the acid attack survivor, takes a look into the mirror and screams because the image in the mirror resembled nothing like the girl who she was a few days ago. All this takes place in a blink of an eye, but what follows is not that just one moment, but the struggle to live every day in the knowledge that their lives will never be the same again. But women like Laxmi Agarwal, Reshma Qureshi, and others didn't let patriarchy and past ruin their future. These acid attack survivors both nationally and internationally participated in fashion shows. They powerfully rejected the shame that acid attacks are intended to deliver. It won't be wrong to say that it was the result of years of work done at the grassroots level with the help of numerous NGO's and organizations.
Every city, if not an area, should have a regulatory body to control the sale of acid in the state. There should be strong laws restricting acid sales and the proper availability of resources and care for those who survive. The science department should try bringing more substitutes to acids, and safer alternatives should be made available in the market. Apart from physical trauma healing, what is required is the legal counseling of the survivors.
"Beauty is something you shouldn't be looking for in the outside world, but what is from the within, that should be called beautiful."
Pragya Prasun, an acid attack survivor, after realizing that 80% of acid attack victims are women and spending four months in the hospital concluded that there is a lack of awareness about what is required for complete healing. Hence, she started doing what she could. She didn't dive into her pain, instead stood up, looked forward, and guided and assisted other survivors. Parsun's organization provides funding for acid attack survivors surgeries, also guides them through the physical and emotional rehabilitation process.
Just like Parsun's organization, in recent times, numerous organizations and NGOs have stood up to support acid attack survivors. Still, there is a long way to go, as the legal and law-enforcing agencies seem to lag far behind. Although it's good to witness that society is taking a step forward in accepting the women with scars left by an acid attack by making the conversation mainstream. Bollywood films like Chhapaak are also bringing the survivors out in a new light. Reputed companies like Lemon Tree Hotels and others are hiring acid attack survivors for both back-end and frontline jobs.
Shoppers Stop has associated with NGO's and contribute Re. 1 on every purchase of beauty products towards this cause. There is a long way to go, but in the end, we can say- we shall overcome!