Acid attack survivors strut down the ramp in India’s city of Taj Mahal
AGRA – Acid attack survivors sashayed down the ramp with elegance and panache in India’s city of Taj Mahal, Agra.
Hundreds of people came to watch the unique fashion show which was organised by Rivaaz, an Indian ethnic clothing retailer.
The acid attack survivors, along with transgender women, took a step forward as they walked the ramp in traditional Indian and western clothes in hues of pink, green, blue and turquoise to send across the message that real beauty does not lies in skin.
Titled as ‘Pankh’ (wings), the fashion show gave wings to people who otherwise face discrimination from the society.
India has one of the highest rates of acid violence in the world, yet a backlog of criminal cases means it can take up to a decade for courts to reach a judgment and most victims receive no compensation.
The majority of victims are women, attacked over domestic or land disputes, a rejected marriage proposal or spurned sexual advances, said a report in September 2015.
However, the acid attack survivors posed with confidence as they walked the ramp amid cheering and clapping by the audience.
“I am happy that the society is respecting people who are not even considered a part of the society. Now the society is giving us a chance to come forward. This fashion show is different from others,” said an acid attack survivor, Ritu.
Globally, there are as many as 1,500 recorded acid attacks each year with more than 1,000 cases estimated to occur in India alone. However, many attacks go unreported because victims are too afraid of reprisals to come forward.
According to Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), attackers frequently target the head and face to maim, disfigure and blind. Victims are left with lifelong physical and psychological scars.
Meanwhile, another acid attack survivor, Farah Khan, said coming out in front of people and posing on stage gave her confidence to face the society.
“At home I used to think that I am the only one with burn injuries but when I came here I found there are many girls, younger than me who have been a victim of acid attack. I believe that pouring acid on one’s face does not end the person’s life. We are fighting against the acid attacks to tell people that by pouring acid on someone, there motive is not fulfilled,” said Khan.
Acid violence occurs in many countries across the world, and is most common in Cambodia, as well as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India where deep-rooted patriarchy persists.
Despite the severity of the crime, acid remains easily available in India where it is used in manufacturing and the processing of cotton and rubber, despite a 2013 Supreme Court order to curb sales. -Reuters