Indian Acid Attack Survivors Show Strength And Courage In New Photo Shoot

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Acid attacks are one of the most de-humanizing crimes in the world. The perpetrator does not want to kill the victim (although in some cases that tragically does happen) rather, they want them to live in shame and isolation. While it happens to both men and women around the world, it is typically a crime that has a bias toward women. It is estimated that women and girls make up 75-80% of cases which are reported, and about 30% of those are under the age of 18.

According to the Acid Survivors Trust International, India has an increasing problem with acid attacks, and they estimate 1000 take place there every year. There is a distinct lack of solid figures they say, because most victims are fearful of reporting in case they suffer additional consequences. Acid attack perpetrators are usually people closely related to the victims.

One prominent organization working to create greater awareness and campaigning for better legislation to punish perps, is Stop Acid Attacks, based out of Delhi, India. They have created some wonderful campaigns to show the public just how important it is to stop these heinous crimes. Their latest project was a photoshoot, featuring 5 female acid attack survivors who don’t want to live in hiding and give hope to other victims that their life doesn’t have to end due to disfigurement.

The organization teamed up with photographer Rahul Saharan to shoot Rupa, Laxmi, Rita, Sonam, and Chanchal. Most victims prefer to not use their surnames to protect their identities. Laxmi is already a survivor doing great work to prevent others from falling victim to acid attacks. After her attacker poured acid on her face at 16 years old, Laxmi decided to talk about it publicly, not hide away, and started campaigning the government to create stricter legislation for the sale of acid and acid-based products. As a result there is now an ban on open-sale acid in the country.

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Her achievements won her an ‘International Woman of Courage‘ award by the US Department of State, and now the 24 hopes her story going public will empower others to raise their voices also.

The girls in the photoshoot were styled by one of the models, Rupa, who has started her own clothing design business with the help of the Stop Acid Attacks organization. The 22 year-old told the Daily Mail she refuses to let her attacker destroy her dreams of living a full life.

“I always wanted to be a designer but after the attack there was a pause in my life. I was so in secure and embarrassed by my scars I used to cover my face with a scarf. I always hung onto my dream but I never knew that one day it would be possible and I would be launching my own label.”

She was asleep one night in 2008 when her stepmother came into her room and with 4 men, threw acid on her face. Rupa hasn’t divulged the reason why, but in a lot of cases it happens because a woman refutes a man’s romantic advances, or refuses to marry someone that family wants. Rupa’s stepmother was found guilty and sentenced to jail, but because of the poor justice system, was freed after 18 months. Rupa’s dad supported her stepmother, which is probably the most disheartening factor of her story.

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Stop Acid Attacks works with survivors to get their self-esteem back and integrate as normal back into society. They have also created their own crisis center called Chhaon where recent attack victims can receive support and help while they are going through the medical recovery process. Aside from being a place of help, it has also become a place where victims come together and form a bond where they no longer feel alone.

“Chhaon has helped me feel confident again and believe in myself,” says Rupa.

Photographer Rahul was honored to be part of the shoot, and has been involved with the organization over the last few years. He did not asked to be paid for the shoot, instead felt it was important for him to put his skills to good use and help these girls gain a bit of confidence back.

“I kept telling the girls: ‘don’t let others tel you what beauty is, you yourself are beautiful, every woman is beautiful.’ ” Rahul is organizing a photography exhibition so that he can donate any proceeds to help more victims.

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“This photo shoot is my tribute to all the brave women across he globe who have gone through this gruesome torture. I’m glad that I could do my part in supporting them,” he said.

Stop Acid Attacks are currently running a crowd-funding campaign to raise capital for Rupa’s clothing line.

“Acid attacks are a by-product of a certain societal mindset and together we can eliminate this social evil from it’s roots. Let’s come together to make sure that this heinous crime does not become a hindrance in someone’s life,” says the description on the campaign page.

You can see Rupa’s campaign video below and see why this issue is not something that should be hidden away. We’re so in awe of Rahul’s beautiful photos and how these young survivors show how strength is a source of beauty and inspiration.

Whether you have been the victim of a similar dehumanizing crime or know someone in a similar position, we hope you see these photos today and are encouraged to know you are not alone, and to raise your voice, stand strong and never let a horrible circumstance dictate the course of your life.

4 Comments

  1. I’m really bummed their crowd sourcing project can only accept donations from Indian accounts. How can I participate from the USA?

    • GirlTalkHQ says:

      Hi Kat,
      We’re not sure if that is possible. Great that you want to donate! It seems they have set up the page only for local donations. Perhaps you could contact the organization behind the project, Stop Acid Attacks, and see if they have a way of allowing international donations.

      -GTHQ

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