British Asian Trust and women’s rights charity GMSP event is to raise awareness of violence against women
Laxmi [she doesn’t use a surname] was 15 when a man poured acid all over her face, while she was walking in the marketplace in her home of Delhi.
Her attacker, a 32-year-old man, the brother of her friends, had wanted Laxmi to marry him. Before the acid attack he had stalked her for 10 months, repeating his proposals and often becoming violent toward her when she rejected him.
The acid burned the skin on her face and arms and she spent the two and a half months after the attack in hospital. Over the years she has had seven operations, costing a total of 20,000,000 rupees, or roughly £22,000, all of which had to be paid for by her family and friends. Her attacker was eventually jailed in 2009 for 10 years.
The event, organised by the British Asian Trust and women’s rights charity GMSP, also features British woman Adele Bellis who is also the survivor of an acid attack, orchestrated by her former partner in August 2014.
Laxmi said she was shocked to learn that the number of acid attacks in the UK has almost doubled in the past 10 years.
“When I found out that this is happening in the UK I was really surprised because I thought of course crimes would exist in a country like [India], but I never thought that something like this would exist. I was really shocked.”
Laxmi said the attack had a profound effect on her and her entire family. Her brother and father died in the same year, shortly after her attack – her brother from tuberculosis, which she believes didn’t get adequate treatment because the family was so focused on her, and her father from a heart attack she believes resulted from the strain of her attack.
Despite this, her advice to those who have suffered acid attacks, and other forms of violence like rape and domestic abuse, was to resist despondency.
“The world will automatically turn you into a victim and victimise you. I would say instead of having a mentality that makes you feel like a victim, become a fighter and become a voice for the people who are going through these things. So you can strengthen those who are going through violence.”