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Acid Attacks in India by Ananya Raghavan

What kind of monster could pour sulphuric acid on another person’s face? Well, it turns out that there are many such monsters, people who buy liters of acid without proper background checks and use it to permanently disfigure another. Between 2014 and 2018, there were 1483 acid attacks in India. Of course the real number is probably much higher as in poorer regions the victims are told not to report the incident in fear of reprisal. Even with films about acid attacks like Uyare and Chhapaak, many Indians are still unaware that the selling of acid is not as regulated as it should be in many states. Typically, the Indian belief that women should concentrate on their appearance overshadows any activism to help victims. In most acid attacks across the country, the same theme is prevalent. The victim refused a marriage proposal or denied a man in another form, leading him to retaliate and throw acid on her face. With a disfigured face, a woman’s shame is permanent, a public mark of disgrace that will dictate the rest of her life from employment to marriage. Six years ago the Indian Supreme Court ruled that the open selling of acid was henceforth banned. However, in 2020 acid has been reported to still be freely available in shops, eliciting questions of whether the justice system has failed to exercise due diligence in ensuring safety from the highly corrosive liquid. I first found out about acid attacks in India reading a French magazine of all things. I remember it vividly. Reshma Qureshi stood on a fashion runway, the first acid attack survivor to walk New York’s fashion week. With one eye (the other burned away by acid) and a scarred face she was still every bit as beautiful. Like Qureshi, many other acid attack victims have used their own stories to inspire others to fight against toxic masculinity and cruelty against women. For example, Laxmi Agarwal gave TED talks and served as the inspiration behind Chhapaak, finding time to actively campaign while hosting a few TV show episodes. Amol Rodriguez is a fashion icon who also founded an NGO for acid attack survivors. These stories, while tragic, are inspirations for us all in proving that a woman is not defined by her face, her scars, or her appearance. Courage and resilience matter a great deal more. “I have found great strength in retelling my story because it reminds me of just how strong I am... it is important to do so [in order] to inspire the world with the power of the human spirit.” -Reshma Qureshi This article was reposted with permission from the Dildaan Foundation.

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