A photo shoot featuring female victims of acid attacks came out that made a huge influence for feminists in India. Acid attacks are a horrendously common form of domestic violence. Victims posed for Rupa Designs. Rupa herself is an acid attack victim, and worked alongside the Chhaon charity to raise enough money to start her own clothing label.
According to the Acid Survivor Foundation India, acid attacks generally occur when a woman refuses the advances of a man or turns down a proposal for marriage. Corrosive acid is usually thrown at the face of the victim, leaving them forever scarred and often blinded by the attack. These physical complications leave them psychologically, socially and economically disadvantaged. The photo shoot and clothing line make a powerful statement about the progress Indian feminists have made, and the strength with which they continue to combat violence against women.
Despite this progress, the oppression of women in India and the nature of domestic violence continue every single day. Acts like “bride burning”, setting one’s future bride on fire when dowry demands are not met, remain prevalent. The social attitudes towards victims continue to shock survivors across the world. In a recent interview series by WTF India, Indian men were asked if they would marry a rape victim. Though some men seemed confused as to why that would matter, many admitted that they would view the victim as “unclean.” This attitude contributes to the daily hardships faced by the countless victims attempting to heal from traumatic events.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, rape has increased by 900 percent over the past 40 years in India. The most important method of understanding the increased rate of rape is to observe Indian culture. Feminists in India are fighting for rights which U.S. women gained decades ago. The oppression of women in the workplace, schools, religious ceremonies and other facets of daily life is not only accepted, but expected. The patriarchy prevails through long standing customs and traditions ingrained in young men and women since birth. Women are considered inferior when they are born, and further objectified throughout adolescence and adulthood.
Due to the misogynistic qualities of rape culture, the safety of women is threatened in all cultures. India is ranked third in the world for the number of annual reported rapes, behind the No.1 slot holder: the “land of the free.” The U.S. reported 83,425 rapes last year at a rate of one rape every 6.2 minutes; India reports a rate of one every 20 minutes. The common notion that problems like violence against women can be solved through equalizing rights to education, work and political involvement simply does seem to stand in the face of the statistics.
Though the situation in India seems incredibly bleak, the horizon is far from it. Protests of a staggering scale have occurred all across the country to defend the victims of sexual violence. The government is continuing to improve the process of convicting rapists, with a current rate over 20 percent in 2012. Women are being encouraged daily to report attacks and refuse to back down, while Indian people are becoming outraged over the reputation that rapists have given their country; they will continue to fight against them until that stigma no longer exists. There is hope for the right of all people to not live in fear of sexual violence. Hopefully, the U.S. will catch on to the trend and provide a safer environment for women.
— Katlyn Firkus is a junior from Conyers majoring in pre-law