Acid Attack Survivors: Redefining Beauty

Beauty is usually defined in terms of “looks”, “body figure”, “colour”, etc. The stereotypical, clichéd vision of what beauty stands for is, so as to say, a shallow one. However, in a recent project of a clothing line, survivors of acid attack in India went on to redefine the stereotypical term. These acid victim survivors have become the face of the new clothing range by Rupa, an acid attack victim herself. Fashion photographer, Rahul Saharan has done an exclusive photo shoot for Rupa Designs, with Rupa, Rita, Sonam, Chanchal and Laxmi modelling for the clothing range. Chhaon, a support-centre for acid-attack survivors and run by Stop Acid Attacks, trained Rupa in designing clothes. It is now in the process to set up a boutique for her in Delhi.

This is a welcome change for the society. Victims, in the past, have faced alienation from the society. They are not naturalised as a part of the society, staying most times in isolation.  As a result, they face an array of painful experiences blending in. The victims’ ordeal doesn’t end after she survives an acid attack but rather continues in a new form. They have to struggle for justice and at the same time vie for acceptance. Gestures like the photo shoot symbolises an assurance that they too are an integral part of the society.

The step is surely a way forward for the society that constantly imposes a crass idea of beauty. The photo-shoot is almost a tale that enchants the beauty of those who are not considered pretty; they are capable and worthy of doing everything, and must be accepted as a part of the society. Despite of being a part of the society that may outcast them, they still can become the faces of a clothing range; and why not?

Beauty comes from the inside, and the grace brought out in the photo shoot shows that they are an epitome of beauty. The grit and strength that these women, and many others in the country, have shown to fight against the atrocities, is indeed beautiful.

Women like Rupa, Sonam, Chanchal, Laxmi and Rita, among many others become victims of the atrocity of acid attack over jealousy and revenge. Acid attacks are considered mostly as means to bring dishonour to a woman. Throwing acid on the faces of their past lovers has given a lot of men solace, making them perpetrators of this heinous crime. The notion – “if you can’t be mine, you can’t be anybody’s,” still persists. Broken relationships have also often led people, usually men, to pick up a bottle of acid to settle scores. It is a shame that issues as trivial as these become reasons to burn someone’s face.

According to a Right To Information (RTI) filed by Amit Ganguly of Reuters, 225 cases of acid attacks on women have been reported in India between 2010 and 2012. The numbers have gone down periodically, with 2002 recording 496 acid attacks. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) was amended in the wake of the December 16 Delhi gangrape, and sections 326A and 326B were included among other amendments. These sections pertain to acid attacks directly. A person guilty of an acid attack is liable to a minimum 10 years imprisonment which may extend to a lifetime. An attempt to an acid attack is punished by a minimum of five years imprisonment which may extend to seven years.

The inclusion of specific acid-attack laws is a positive move, but mere amendments in the law aren’t enough if changes are to be brought in the society. A mindset change is inevitable if acid attacks are to be stopped. And for those who are the victims, Rupa and her friends have set a remarkable example of determination and strength. They make our world beautiful!

Have a look at the graceful photo shoot of Saharan in this short slideshow:

Vikas Arora

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