United by pain and the horror of acid attack, four women victims of the horrific crime came together at the Capital on the occasion of International Women’s Day on Friday to remove the veil hiding their disfigured faces and to speak of life after the violence.

“Today we have decided to tell everyone our story. We have decided that it isn’t us who need to hide our faces and live in fear. We have retaliated and earned the right to live a life of dignity, and today we will speak up to make sure that this right isn’t taken away from us again,” said Archana, a victim from Faridabad.

Sitting with three more survivors at an informal meeting organised at Hindi Bhavan and surrounded by supporters from different areas of the country, Archana added: “The Government is often so busy giving compensation to the deceased victims of sexual assault that they forget the living ones. All of us have been struggling to get adequate funds and make sure that we have some constant source of income. But almost all of us have got no support from the Government.”

“Everyone promises but we have to produce so many papers and documents for getting even a single penny that we are often forced to borrow money from our friends and relatives or depend on the mercy of strangers,” she said.

Demanding that the Government should help them live a life of dignity, Archana said: “Most of us want to learn a skill and live independently. We are tired of having to beg for help. Just help us live with dignity.”

Speaking of her injuries and life after the violence, Shahina — another survivor — said: “Today, three years and 17 surgeries after the violence, I still feel that life has become a punishment for me. I have no social life, and nobody — government, neighbours, friends or relatives — has come forward to help me.”

“Today, we demand that men who disfigure women’s faces with acid shouldn’t be put in jail, instead they should also endure an acid attack to understand the implication of what they have done and suffer the consequences,” she said.

On the occasion, a web portal ‘www.stopacidattacks.org’ dedicated to the cause was launched. “This is an initiative to provide a platform to such victims and people who want to support them,” said Alok Nath, one of the organisers. Also present on the occasion was an 18-member delegation from Chennai, which biked its way to Delhi to create awareness on violence against women and children.

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