ACID attacks on women and girls are among the most heinous crimes. Sometimes, the victims are barely in their teens. Take the case of Anshu Rajput, who was just 15 years old when she was was attacked with acid by a 55-year-old sexual predator. The gruesome assault left the teenager blind in the left eye and scarred for life. But as one of the hundreds of acid attack survivors, her determination to overcome trauma and fight for dignity can serve as an inspiration to many women on this International Women’s Day.
Anshu’s attacker was found guilty and imprisoned for life after seven years of trial in 2020. But the struggle for her was long and hard. Despite facing social discrimination because of her disfigured face, she didn’t give up. As she comes from a low-income family from Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh, Noida-based NGO Chhanv Foundation helped her with funds for several surgeries and also employed her at Sheroes Hangout, a cafe run by survivors of acid attacks in Agra. Anshu, today, is a public speaker and fights for the rights of women, especially acid attack survivors.
India is home to the largest acid attacks anywhere in the world. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, between 2014 and 2018, there were 1,483 victims of acid attacks. There were nearly 200 attacks regardless of a lockdown in 2020.
The attacks have taken place despite the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 which made changes to Sections 326A and 326B of the Indian Penal Code criminalising acid attacks and attempted acid attacks. The punishment in the case of Section 326 A (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid) is imprisonment of not less than 10 years, which could be extended to life imprisonment and a fine. Further, according to Section 326 B, which is on voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid is punishable with an imprisonment of not less than five years.
According to the recorded police cases, rejection in love, marriage and advances of sex are some of the main reasons for acid attacks against women. “Acid attackers target the face of their victims in a bid to isolate them from society, and sadly, society reacts exactly as they expect,” says Alok Dixit, Founder, Chhanv Foundation, a non-profit that helps survivors with medical aid and rehabilitation and is a go-to place for several acid attack victims from across the country.
Actor Deepika Padukone’s 2020 film ‘Chhapaak’ was inspired by an acid attack survivor story and the filmmakers worked closely with Chhanv Foundation and some of the survivors associated with the organisation even appeared in the film.
But the going has been tough for the foundation for the last two years as it has not been able to help all the survivors with medical and other forms of aid. In fact, almost 40 women have been waiting for critical surgeries for the last two years as Chhanv could not help because of lack of funds.
GiveIndia and Chhanv Foundation have joined hands on International Women’s Day, to raise funds to the tune of ₹1 crore for the physical and mental recovery of 40 acid attack survivors across the country.
“This Women’s Day, as the world recognises and acknowledges the importance of breaking harmful biases against women, GiveIndia is launching a fundraiser to help Chhanv Foundation bring change in the lives of acid attack survivors across the country. Through our joint campaign, we hope to channel the generous support of women and men against biases of all kinds and help acid attack survivors reclaim their lives and inspire many others,” said Sumit Tayal, COO, GiveIndia.
Kumara has been a professional journalist for over 15 years with stints in The Telegraph and Reader’s Digest. He grew up hating maths and physics. He is a post-graduate in history. Kumara believes that cricket and Seinfeld have answers to most questions that life throws at you.