Hope amid challenges for acid attack survivors

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court | Photo Credit: File Photo

“The acid attack ruined my life,” said Nasreen, who was abandoned by her parents in 2007 after her husband, against whom she had filed a divorce case for domestic violence, attacked her. She roamed the streets of Jama Masjid struggling to sustain herself. “I’ve slept in places where you wouldn’t even walk,” she said.

Life changed for the better when the Delhi High Court employed Nasreen and she could afford a roof over her head.

In 2017, the Delhi High Court provided contractual employment to five acid attack survivors and a transgender person after their struggles were highlighted before the then Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal. The Delhi State Legal Services Authority had proposed to explore job opportunities for acid attack survivors and the court’s decision enabled six women to live with dignity.

Mamta, 31, worked at a beauty parlour before she was attacked by her husband who threw acid on her face within a few weeks of their marriage in 2010. He was unhappy with the dowry she brought from her parental home. After struggling for seven years to find a job, she was eventually hired as a help desk assistant five years ago at the High Court.

“At work, I interact with many people who motivate me. The incident had shattered me but I feel empowered on getting recognised at my workplace,” Ms. Mamta said, who remarried recently.

However, she is yet to receive justice. “The accused continues to live freely, while I still live with the trauma and struggle to look at myself in the mirror,” she said.

Justice Gita Mittal told The Hindu that acid attack victims and transgender persons are the most ostracised communities in society. “Since representation matters, we should actively create a safe space for them and provide them with more such opportunities, “ she said.

Ms. Mittal added that the State should bear the medical expenses of acid attack survivors. “It is difficult for them to sustain without help. Efforts should be made to give them positions of power so that the feeling of ‘otherisation’ is removed,” she said.

Sapna, 28, battled acid attack injuries when she was in Class XI and had to quit school because of emotional and physical trauma. She later completed her education and joined Karkardooma Court where her life gained a new meaning. She is now married and has a two-year-old daughter. She is able to afford rent and other basic amenities with her salary.

Financial empowerment

Seher Nazir, 27, a legal researcher at Jammu and Kashmir High Court and also an acid attack survivor, said financial independence is a must for women to fight such crimes. “The treatment is expensive and due to societal conditioning, women lose their jobs. The government should create more employment opportunities for them and assign jobs according to their calibre. Since many survivors are abandoned by their families, a job in hand helps them to bear the legal and treatment cost,” she said.

A majority of the acid attack survivors are young girls and women who come from underprivileged backgrounds and are unable to complete their education, said Ashish Shukla, 31, director at Chhanv Foundation, an organisation that helps in the rehabilitation of the survivors.

His NGO trains the victims in English language, technology and finance and makes them job-ready. “Most of the survivors opt for vocational training for sustenance. This year we have had several companies approaching us to hire the survivors; there is hope for a better tomorrow,” he said.

Shobha, 28, another acid attack survivor appointed by the court said she had to face a number of rejections before landing the job at the court. “In 2009, when I was in Class X, my brother’s friend threw acid on my face over a marriage proposal I wasn’t interested in,” she said recalling the tragic incident.

Babli, a 34-year-old wheelchair attendant at the court along with the acid attack survivors, was abandoned by her family because she came out as a transgender person in 2010. “Earlier, I had to perform at events while working as a house help till I could sustain myself. But now, times have changed and I am respected for the work I do,” she said.

According to National Crime Records Bureau, India reported 105 acid attack cases against 109 female victims in 2020.

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Printable version | Jul 1, 2022 12:21:46 pm |