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Don’t talk about it, please

Lakshmi(right) is now fighting for other acid attack victims

The safest way of spending your life in a lower middle class family in India is to constantly keep in mind what others may be thinking of you and stick to convention. But does one get enough security in return?

Reshma was attacked with acid on her vagina, but it took her 15 days to file a police complaint against the person who committed this brutal crime. While she had religiously stuck to social mores, this very society instilled a deep sense of fear in her-  and not because she went against society. Reshma was neither attacked by her boy friend whom she refused to marry nor by some “luchcha” (local goon) on the road who she was anyway not supposed to speak to.

Reshma is actually a mother of five daughters and pregnant with yet another child. Her husband asked her to get an ultrasound done to check the sex of baby and to get the foetus aborted if it were a girl. Reshma refused and this was too much for her husband, a  man who had been brought up in the same society like Reshma where she was taught to bear pain and he was taught to rule. He kept his wife locked up in a room after he poured acid on her and kept giving her painkillers, expecting that she would learn her lesson and “move on” after the incident.

The author, Samrah Fatima, is a journalist and editor at the Deutsche Welle.

Nineteen-year-old acid attack victim Laxmi Agarwal is now working for the welfare of other acid attack victims in India. After meeting Reshma, she told me that Reshma’s was afraid for herself and for her daughters. Who would want her if she complained about her husband? Who would accept her daughters? Who would marry her girls, whose mother had been attacked by her father who was in prison? Would she get a job? How would she be able to raise her children?

The same society heartlessly rejects its association with any such person the moment he or she speaks up against injustice . Laxmi herself could not go to school after the attack when she was fifteen. Her relatives stopped coming to her house or meeting her family. She could not dream of getting married ever- probably because it is a society where crimes against women happen only when they spread their wings too wide or begin expressing their opinions.

The society that taught Reshma to be a loyal and dutiful wife never assured her that complaining about her husband, when he does something wrong, will not make her a bad wife. It did not assure her or set an example that she or her daughters would not be discriminated against or that she could still get a job somewhere without being looked down upon. Her society never gave her the confidence that when the girls grow up, a man will not look at them as daughters of a woman who is staying away from her husband.

And if there is no such assurance, how could she take a chance of filing a police complaint and endangering her daughters for life? Reshma decided to keep mum despite all the abuse. She bore the pain so that she would be seen as a good wife- until Laxmi and her group of activists convinced her with their support and the news became too public to be hidden any more.

Author: Samrah Fatima

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan



30.08.2013 | 14:09