Michelle Obama honours India's 'Stop Acid Attacks' campaigner

Mar 06, 2014, 09:17 IST | Agencies

Laxmi, who was attacked with acid in 2005 by her friend’s brother after she spurned his romantic advances, went on to become a flag-bearer in the movement to end acid attacks

US First Lady Michelle Obama felicitated Indian acid attack survivor Laxmi after she won the International Women of Courage Award for successfully leading the campaign against acid attacks on women in India.

The US First Lady clapped proudly and gave Laxmi a long hug. Pics/AFP
The US First Lady clapped proudly and gave Laxmi a long hug. Pics/AFP

The award annually recognises women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk.

Obama and the large crowd at the State Department auditorium was moved and touched when Laxmi, a standard-bearer of the movement to end acid attacks, recited a poem recounting her experience on the occasion yesterday. She had written the original poem in Hindi. Laxmi received the prestigious award along with nine other women from different parts of the world.

Laxmi was 16 when an acquaintance threw acid at her face while she waited at a bus stop in New Delhi’s busy Khan Market in 2005, disfiguring her permanently. Her attacker, a friend’s 32-year-old brother, threw the acid to destroy Laxmi’s face after she refused to respond to his romantic advances.

Deputy secretary of State Heather Higginbottom, who presented the award, said, “Acid attacks are committed almost exclusively on women, particularly on young women.” She added, “For fearless advocacy on behalf of victims of acid attacks and for bringing hope to survivors of gender-based violence and disfigurement, we name Laxmi a Woman of Courage.”

Inspired, inspiring
You haven’t thrown acid on my face; you threw it on my dreams. You didn’t have love in your heart; you had acid in it. - An excerpt from the poem Laxmi read at the ceremony

Laxmi's legacy
“Until recently, anyone could walk into a store and buy a litre of acid as cheaply and as easily as a bottle of window cleaner. But after her attack, Laxmi became a tireless campaigner against acid attacks. Thanks to her hard work, Laxmi was successful in petitioning the Supreme Court to order the Indian government to regulate the sale of acid and to make prosecutions of acid attacks easier to pursue,” said Heather Higginbottam.

>> Laxmi received the International Women of Courage Award along with 9 other women
>> Her activism has helped regulate sale of acid 
>> Recited poignant poetry based on her experiences at the State Department auditorium

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