I was sitting in the food lounge with my luggage in Indira Gandhi International Airport. In two hours we had to take our scheduled flight back home to the United states. GK had gone to grab something to eat from a nearby food stall. A bunch of people came into the lounge area and acquired the seats on the next table. They were acid attack survivors. Till now I have heard their stories on talk shows, but today I was watching them for the first time in the real world. They were engaged in dialogs among themselves. They seemed confined, but happy and contended.
Acid attacks are reported in 39 countries in the world which include both developed and developing nations. Bangladesh has reported the highest number of attacks. Other countries mainly include India, Nepal, Pakistan, UK, Vietnam, France, Germany, Iran, China and Cambodia. Chief reasons behind such attacks are the rejection for sex or marriage proposals, unpaid dowry, women going against father, brother, husband or his family.
Globally 80% of the acid attack victims are women and girls. However, in London, this ratio differs. Victims of acid attacks there were around 50 males and 50 females each year from 2007 to 2011. In 2016, the number of attacks on men increased dramatically to 352. From 2017, it is illegal to carry acid in London with an intent to harm and measures are taken according to the degree of harm it has caused. In 2008, an acid attack victim in Iran sentenced her attacker to be blinded by acid in both eyes under the law of an equivalent justice. However, later she pardoned him. In India, the minimum punishment for this crime is 10 years imprisonment, which can extend up to lifetime imprisonment with a fine. But many attackers bribe the system and get bailed out without punishment.
Victims of acid attacks go through huge trauma, including physical, mental and financial stress. They need a safe place to stay, a steady income to manage their expenses and financial aid for several painful surgeries to live a normal life. The government does give them aid, though not sufficient. They also need to gain back their lost confidence and acceptance from others to continue in mainstream without judgmental or prying eyes.
While looking up online about acid attack survivors, I saw pictures of the women who were at airport, on the website of New York fashion week. This fashion show took place after almost two weeks from that day. Walking on the stage surely have helped the survivors in boosting their self-confidence and creating awareness about them among the masses present there.
|Picture courtesy: http://time.com/4485099/reshma-qureshi-new-york-fashion-week-acid-attack|
Recently, my sister- in- law told me about a café in Agra, Uttar Pradesh named Sheros (She-heros), which is run by the survivors of acid attacks. Females, who is attacked by their male stalkers, rejected lovers, relatives or fathers, are serving food and working as chefs. It is a justice to the struggles they have been through, to empower them to live a respectful, confident and independent life, even though sometimes their pains are unheard and unattended legally.