India's last refuge for acid attack victims
In recent years, India's patriarchal order has been called into question by an increasingly educated and culturally aware generation of women. In response, acid attacks on women have become a disturbingly frequent occurrence. As cowardly as they are devastating, those afflicted are left mentally and physically scarred. Rupa’s Boutique profiles the bravery and perseverance of six young acid attack survivors who are defying their trauma to pursue their dreams.
There are around five acid attacks in India every week. Only a small number of attackers are ever convicted of a crime. As the system is unprepared to confront the extent of violence against women, so the perpetrators are often shockingly lacking in remorse. One man who attacked his wife with acid after drinking - and accidentally burned his daughter in the process - says he did it because his wife was disobedient. “I thought that by looking in the mirror she’d remember…Now everything’s back to normal. I apologised. What happened is in the past.” For Abhilash Shukla, a project manager at a foundation set up to help survivors, the rise in the number of attacks against women speaks to a deep-seated male insecurity. “From the cases we realised that unrequited love is often the reason for the attacks. They want to destroy their beauty because they think that if she can’t be mine then she shouldn’t be anyone else’s either.”
Yet more and more survivors are determined to defy expectations of them. For Dolly, who was attacked by a man in her home as a child, the pain and suffering has only hardened her resolve to be a dancer. Rupa, who was just a teenager when she was attacked by her stepmother, wants to be a fashion designer, and hopes that by fulfilling her ambition she can inspire other survivors to pursue their dreams: “I want to become a designer and I want to show other survivors of acid attacks or rape that they can’t live in fear.”