Women Around The World: A Closer Look At Acid Attacks.

Credit: here
 *Warning: Some images may cause distress. Viewer discretion is advised. 

By: Ashwini Selvakumaran

It’s another day for Vinita Panikker, 26, who moans from the soft downy covers from her fluffy mattress, dreading to get up. Like any other regular girl, she forces herself to rise after having spent five more minutes basking in the warmth of her sheets. She does her usual chores, folding the sheets on her bed and preparing breakfast in the kitchen.

However, there’s something very different about Vinita, which sets her apart from millions of other girls. She is a victim of a violent acid attack. Three years ago, her jealous husband who had suspicions of the innocent Vinita, of having an affair with her boss at the software company she worked for, was enough to prompt him to pour a whole bottle of hydrochloric acid onto her face, while she slept. Despite having had 12 reconstructive surgeries, she still suffers from the taut stretch of her burnt skin, and is partially blind.

Credit//Getty images

Shockingly to say, Vinita is far from being the only women, who has undergone acid attacks. Acid attacks are most common in India where Vinita resides, in New Delhi, although many of them also occur globally around the world. Attacks are operated on thousands of young women, simply because they rejected romantic advances and marriage proposals, varying to fighting for their education and rights. Acid is used as a retributive weapon by many men in India, in response to taking umbrage at being spurned against.

In 2015 alone, a whooping 309 attacks have been conducted in just New Delhi. Attacks severely damage skin tissue, and can cause hearing loss, blindness, and even the dissolving of the bone and tissues, which often leads to life long physical disfigurement. Reconstructive surgeries are often expensive up to 10,000 dollars and cost most of the women’s savings. Furthermore, everyday affected women must rewrap scarves around their heads, to protect from extensive heat damage, and other factors.

Credit//Getty Images

Aside from the physical damage, these women are often prone to social and psychological damage as well. Vinita’s extended family and friends have already turned their back on her. “My life has taken a 180-degree turn” she remarked to Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), “From a successful career woman, I’m now a social reject with neither resources nor a strong family to call my own.” 

Vinita’s close friend Shirin Juwaley has also been a victim of the attacks. Whilst in the midst of divorcing her husband back in 1998, in a hot angry rush of rage, he poured the fiery liquid down her face, which seared her flesh. However, Juwaley is less concerned with her physical damage. The social exclusion is the worst part of the whole ordeal “It is far less tangible but the discrimination – from friends, relatives and neighbors – hurts the most” she quoted to IPS. 

As for the attackers? Most are left to roam around free. As per the new Criminal Law act, put in place in 2013, anyone convicted of an acid attack could be sentenced up to life imprisonment. However, no matter how many police reports Juwaley, Panikker and other women have filed against their attackers, most of them still remain free to roam the streets. It will definitely take some time for this law to truly be set in stone.

Juwaley is still hopeful though, that one day her attacker will be brought to justice. She has managed to piece her life back together, one painful piece at a time. Juwaley is the founder of the Palash Foundation, which addresses livelihood alternatives, coping mechanisms and ways to fund and raise money for reconstructive surgeries for people struggling with disfigurement. She has also helped people like Panikker reassess their situation, and get their life under control. Though Panikker has lost her job at her successful software company, Juwaley has helped her find a job as a local small-time cook at a fast food restaurant, a small, but promising start.

Juwaley hopes to shed awareness on the recent outbreak of acid attacks. Most recently victims of acid attacks residing in New Delhi, were arranged to gather to pose for a calendar shoot to showcase inner beauty, and as a way for the girls to confide and find strength in each other, in hopes to reduce social exclusion. Beautician Sonia Choudary, yet another women affected by the string of acid attacks, also joined forces with Panikker and Juwaley by encouraging confidence and a reclaimed sense of pride through makeup application. 
credit//getty images

The smiles on the girl’s faces were rewarding enough. “I have not smiled in months,” a young girl named Rupa confided to CNN News, giggling while Choudary helped her apply makeup. Though there is yet a lot of work to be done, the smile was the start of a newfound happiness for these strong young women. “We are each other’s family now” Juwaley smiles fondly at the girls.

“I will not let this experience define me as a victim” Sonia, who had acid inflicted upon her in 2014, after refusing to apologize to a former boyfriend for breaking up with him, was quoted saying to CNN News.

Though there is still a long way to go until these attacks are diminished, it is overpowering to see women refuse to let the scars of the attack remain with them. There is a ray of hope as the light of awareness is slowly starting to shine more and more on this controversy, but one thing remains for sure. Acid won’t stop these women from taking charge and showcasing to the world, how incredible they really are.

“I’m a women” Sonia said proudly to CNN News as she finishes applying makeup on Rupa’s face, “I refuse to bow down to anything I feel that I have not done wrong. Being a women is so much more than that.”

And indeed it is.


credit//Sonia Choudhary

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