India: Appeal for funds for two acid attack victims
The lives and hopes of Samar (31) and Juwariya (25) Atique were brutally crushed in October 2009 by two men who threw a jug of acid on their faces as the women were returning home from a day's work in a rickshaw. Their crime - Juwariya had turned down a marriage proposal from one of the men! They sustained severe burns and injuries to their faces, their eyes and their upper bodies. In acid attack cases, the victims should be hosed down gently with a continuous stream of water immediately to stop the acid continuing to burn into their flesh. But they did not get treatment for five hours after the incident because the woman doctor was threatened with a similar attack by these men and their families.
Their eyes were infected and continually pouring out pus. They may be blind for life. They will need to have reconstructive surgery on their noses and lips. Their eyelids were burnt away so they also suffer from itching and dryness in the eyes. Their first operation did not take place till 5 months after the event. To date they have had 3 operations and they will need many, many more. They live in Delhi but they have to travel to a hospital in Chennai, nearly one and a half thousand miles away, where they are getting subsidised treatment. One of the sisters is suicidal, they are both suffering from depression but neither of them has had any counselling sessions as yet. Post-operative care and rehabilitation will take years.
They were independent working women, whose incomes contributed to the expenses of a joint family of 11 people. Samar worked for an IT company and Juwariya, ironically ran her own beauty parlour. One other sister and brother have had to give up their jobs in order to look after them leading to a loss of four incomes. The reduced family income is less than the monthly cost of routine medical expenses like bandages, antibiotics and painkillers, let alone the cost of going to Chennai for surgery, let alone the costs of daily life. So far, they have managed with donations and loans from family and friends. Poverty has compounded the consequences of violence.
This case came to the attention of Southall Black Sisters earlier this year. Although we do not usually have the capacity to run international campaigns, we felt that the horrific nature of this particular attack served as a salutary reminder of the extreme violence that women round the world continue to face should they make the smallest strike for freedom and assert their most basic rights, in this case, the right to choose their own partner/spouse.
The immediate target for fundraising is £21,000 for microsurgery to be carried out on Samar's eyes. There is some hope that her sight may be saved although Juwariya's is irretrievable. Of this sum £11,000 has already been raised. However the very rough total estimated costs of all surgery, including longterm rehabilitation, are: £250,000. It is impossible to be precise partly because every decision for futher surgery depends on preceding operations. The following are some examples of costs:
Average monthly cost of care: £1350 (bandages, medicines, nursing, local hospital visits, nutritious food)
Each visit to the Chennai hospital: £12,000 (based on their previous trip)
Every return flight to Chennai costs: £985 (for 3 people)
Counselling: £30 per session
We attach photos of the women before, after the attack and after surgery. These are stomach-churning pictures and we are circulating them, not for the purposes of sensationalism, but at the request of the family who want the wider society to confront the horror of violence against women.
It is very easy (and secure) to donate online. Please click on the Justgiving link below and follow the instructions. If you are a UK taxpayer at the basic rate, they will even reclaim 28p for every £1 from the government, increasing the value of your donation by 30%.