Victims Of ‘Acid Attacks’ Join Together For A Fashion Shoot [Photo Gallery]

Five brave women, victims of what are commonly referred to as “acid attacks,” have joined together for a fashion photo shoot in India.

The women are all very different, but they all share a brutal experience. Each one was a victim of what is considered a scourge in India – the deliberate dousing of a woman’s face with acid in order to disfigure or blind them, usually because of sexual advances that were spurned.

There is Rupa, whom, at age 15, was doused with acid by her stepmother. The reason? Rupa was engaged, and her stepmother did not want to pay for any marriage expenses. After the attack, the wedding was called off.

And Laxmi was also 15 when she suffered from an acid attack after refusing a marriage proposal made by her brother’s 32-year-old friend.

It was a family member – her own cousin – who attacked Ritu, aged 22, pouring acid on her because of a property dispute.

And sisters Sonam and Chanchal were attacked in their sleep. A group of village men, who had repeatedly sexually harassed the sisters, poured acid on the girls as they slept.

The idea of a fashion shoot highlighting women who have suffered from acid attacks was the brainchild of photographer Rahul Saharan. Saharan also volunteers with the charity Stop Acid Attacks and is currently working on a documentary about acid attacks.

But the fashion itself is the work of 22-year-old Rupa, who has long since decided not to let her stepmother’s brutality stop her dream of becoming a fashion designer. Rupa and her four friends pose with confidence, proudly displaying Rupa’s work. It has been the hope of Stop Acid Attacks that the attention brought to Rupa and her friends will provide the initial capital to help buy the equipment and rent a space for Rupa in a “decent locality” in Delhi, where she can open boutique to display her own creations.

Rupa hopes to employ other victims of acid attacks to work with her.

The people responsible for the horrible attacks on these five women were all actually arrested and convicted, but that is a rarity for this sort of crime in India. These attacks on women often go unpunished. There are 1,500 acid attacks reported worldwide, according to the Acid Survivors Trust International, a London-based group. But there is a great likelihood that the number of actual instances is much higher. India did recently pass a law that severely limits the sale of acid, but the charity Stop Acid Attacks has still counted at least 200 attacks since the passing of the law.

The five models were eager to see the results of the photo shoot, which involved minimal make-up. According to photographer Saharan, the girls declared that they were looking “very beautiful.” Saharan added, “The happiness on their faces added a new meaning to my life.”