Women Around The World: A Closer Look At Acid Attacks
by Ashwini Selvakumaran
*Warning: Some images and content below may cause distress.
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.
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 told IPS.
As for the attackers? Most roam around free. As per the new Criminal Law Act, enacted 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, 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. Recently victims of acid attacks residing in New Delhi posed for a calendar shoot to showcase inner beauty, as a way for the girls to confide and find strength in each other, and in hopes to reduce social exclusion. Beautician Sonia Choudhary, 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.
The smiles on the girls’ faces were rewarding enough. “I have not smiled in months,” a young girl named Rupa confided to CNN News, giggling while Choudhary 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,” Choudhary, who herself was attacked in 2014, after refusing to apologize to a former boyfriend for breaking up with him, told 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 their attacks 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 certain. Acid won’t stop these women from taking charge and showing the world just how incredible they really are.
“I’m a woman” 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 woman is so much more than that.”
And indeed it is.