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With hundreds of attacks happening every year, the stories of acid attack survivors in India bring out the hard truth about their wretched economic conditions.
Laxmi Agarwal, Monica Singh, Reshma Qureshi, Aarti Thakur, Lalita Ben Bansi… Do these names ring a bell? Maybe they do, somewhere in the back of our heads. We would have read about them in newspapers, magazines and social media platforms. Their courageousness would have inspired us all.
But unfortunately human minds tend to forget things soon. With the fading limelight, problems continue to haunt many women like them, the acid attack survivors of our country.
The Hindustan Times in one of their recent news articles had interviewed Laxmi Agarwal, the acid-attack survivor from India who won the US Department’s International Women of Courage Award in the year 2014. She has given many inspiring talks, walked the ramps and even hosted a TV show. But today the condition that she is living in is awful. She has no money to even pay her house rent.
This is not just the story of Laxmi Agarwal, but the situation is same for most of the acid-attack survivors. They gear up to somehow fight the internal demons of depression, insecurities, health problems and accept themselves the way they are. But what affects them the most is the economic instability.
It becomes so very hard for them to even make both ends meet. The same people who were proud of their courage, applauded them when they received awards, turn away in reality, not wanting to look at their ‘ugly’ and scary faces. We fail to provide them jobs or even rent them homes. Treatment, medicine and surgeries would have costed them a lot. Over that, with absolutely no source of income, where would they go? What would they do? How long can they survive depending on NGOs and other aid?
They win over their suicidal tendencies after the attack, but later, people make their lives and living a hell. The face is often considered as the index of human mind, but it has nothing to do with the person that we truly are. Its indeed a very integral part of our selves, but it can not be the only identity that a person has.
Each person has their own special individuality, it’s not just their bright eyes, long nose, glowing skin or broad lips. But looking at the examples of women like Laxmi Agarwal or Aarti Thakur, it appears that people’s attitude towards them or the concept of beauty hasn’t changed even a bit over the years.
Yet, acid attack victims walk the ramp in the name of changing the dynamics of beauty, make big news. Everybody goes gaga about it, organizers give lengthy speeches inspiring the mass about inclusiveness and acceptance. But at the end of the show its all just publicity stunts. As narrated by Laxmi Agarwal in her interview, even walking the ramp for designers didn’t give her any money. Attack survivors are often treated as insignificant people in the world, off the camera, newspapers or the limelight.
One of the very few places they are usually treated with respect are at NGOs. With no other option, for very less pay, they work at NGOs helping others. Their standard of living would be very low. They might wonder how one incident, that too a few seconds completely turned their world upside down. Its impossible for them to go back and change things. This struggle is forever. There are a few examples of women acid attack survivors doing well in life as well. But problems and suffering is inevitable for the most of them.
Even if people and society don’t have the guts to accept an attack survivor, it has no rights to deny them equal opportunities. They are as human as we all are. They are not demons to be scared of or run away from. They have the same human heart that yearns for love and affection, and the same needs as everyone else.
Can we go beyond just paying lip service to their courage?
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Apart from being the Associate Editor at Women's Web, where I get to read,
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