By Shruti Sonal:
In May 2012, Ritu’s cousin attacked her with acid. With grave difficulty, she reached the hospital half an hour later, and when she tried to ask for help, the acid went into her mouth, burning her skin as well as her insides.
Ritu’s is just one story. India has one of the highest rates of acid violence in the world. Despite continuous efforts to regulate the sale of acid, the number of cases has been steadily rising over the years. According to Acid Survivors Foundation India, 349 cases were reported in the year 2014. The actual numbers, activists feel must be higher as a number of cases go unreported due to the stigma attached to the crime.
In our patriarchal society, a majority of the victims are women, whose lives are scarred over petty domestic disputes or rejected marriage proposal and sexual advances. Not only does it leave behind lifelong physical and psychological scars, but also signals the end of a “normal” life for the survivors. With their bodies deformed, the survivors are more often than not confined to the walls of their homes, made conscious of the fact that they are not ‘beautiful’ anymore, thereby not worthy of happiness and a respectful living.
However, Sheroes Hangout, a cafe started by the Stop Acid Attacks campaign in Agra, is striving to change this perception. All the staff members in this cafe are acid attack survivors. Ritu, along with many other young and extremely talented young girls, manages this space where they create art, design clothes, serve food, offer books to read, and just generally a great place to hangout.
They neither cover their faces, nor seek pity, and are now confident members of society, making a respectable life, all by themselves.
Watch their inspirational story in this video, and tell us your thoughts in the comments below.