Indian Acid Attack Victim Wins ‘International Women Of Courage Award’

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What’s the worst that could happen if you reject a man’s sexual advances? He calls you an obscene name, gives you an obscene gesture, or maybe slanders you in a public forum? Yes, those are un-called for indeed. But imagine you lived in a country where if you rejected a man, he threw acid on you in an attempt to ruin your life? Sounds far-fetched, yet it is a shocking truth one young girl had the misfortune of living out.

Laxmi is a 24 year old from India who was disfigured permanently when a man threw acid on her while she was waiting for a bus in New Delhi in 2005. She was 16 at the time. All because she refused his romantic pleas. Perhaps someone ought to tell that guy he needs therapy for his abandonment issues…

Well it ain’t gonna be Laxmi, because she has become an unlikely spokesperson for other acid attack victims in India. They say “success is the best revenge” but for Laxmi, it is more about showing other victims (mostly women) that there is life beyond tragedy, and power in sharing your story.

It is very common for female acid attacks to hide away in shame of their appearance, or even in some extreme cases, commit suicide. This was not an option for Laxmi. She started speaking out about her story, making numerous TV appearances.

She also gathered 27,000 signatures on her Change.org petition which was launched in conjunction with the Stop Acid Attacks org in 2013 to curb acid sales, and took her cause to the Indian Supreme Court. Laxmi’s petition led the Supreme Court to order the Indian central and state governments to regulate immediately the sale of acid, and the Parliament to make prosecutions of acid attacks easier to pursue.

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Does she sound like a victim to you? Her story is being recognized all over the world and this year she was given the ‘International Women of Courage‘ award by the US Department of State for how she is turning her tragedy into triumph. She is the youngest recipient of this award in 2014, and joins a list of revolutionary women who are working to change the way females live in their respective countries. Michelle Obama presented the award to the brave young woman.

“When we see these women raise their voices, and move their feet and empower others to create change, we need to realize that each of us has that same power, and that same obligation,” said Obama at the State Department ceremony.

Women who are fighting for gender equality, women’s rights, healthcare, better government representation, fighting religious oppression, unfair legislation, domestic violence, and more. These women are from countries such as Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Fiji Guatemala, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine just to name a few.

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The award was established in 2007 and honors women around the globe who have exemplified exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights, women’s equality, and social progress, often at great personal risk. This is the only Department of State award that pays tribute to emerging women leaders worldwide.

Last year, Nirbhaya, the courageous 23-year-old girl whose brutal gang rape and murder on a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012 triggered widespread protests, was honoured with the award.

Perhaps there ought to be more punishment like this one in Iran, where a court ordered a man’s eyes to be gouged out and his ears chopped off for pouring acid on a girl. OK, that is a little extreme, but men who think they can do something like this and get away with it need to be sent a message.

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The fact that acid is so easily available to purchase in countries like India is sickening. But thankfully people are raising their voices for all those victims who aren’t able to.

If you have not yet seen the documentary ‘Saving Face‘ please watch it and understand how awful this situation is. The film follows a plastic surgeon from the UK who travels to Pakistan frequently to offer his services repairing the faces of female acid attack victims. Some of the stories these women tell him are incredulous. And the rather pathetic excuses/lies some of the husbands give (yep, they are stupid enough to appear on camera…) makes you sick.

But the more these stories reach levels of government and society that have the power to change things, the better.

“After this award, girls of India would think, if Laxmi can do this, I can also raise my voice against injustice,” Laxmi said in an interview. Well done to this woman of courage for inspiring others to be brave and stand up for injustice.

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