Earlier this week, Laxmi, a victim of acid attack, was awarded the International Women of Courage Award by U.S.’s First Lady Michelle Obama for successfully leading the campaign against acid attacks on women in India.
The story of Haseena Hussain of Bangalore, who fought a long battle after an acid attack in 1999, is as inspiring as Laxmi’s.
Ms. Haseena was attacked with acid in 1999 by Joseph Rodriguez, her former employer, as she had not responded to the marriage proposal and had refused to stay back in his firm. Today, almost 15 years later, Ms. Haseena is the sole breadwinner of her family of four comprising her father, mother and grandmother.
Choosing not to be bogged down by 35 surgeries and loss of vision in both eyes, besides constant “stares” and comments from relatives and acquaintances, she now works in a government office. When asked if she was offered the job by the government, an irked Ms. Haseena says: “I got this job on my own. I cleared several rounds of tests after undergoing computer training.”
Ms. Haseena hates re-living what she calls “sob story” and says that she hopes every acid attack victim is able to fight the odds and become independent. “As I was educated, I was able to secure a job. But acid victims, particularly in rural areas, may find it difficult to be independent. Most acid attack victims lose their vision. If the government provides jobs, they can remain independent.”
She adds categorically that she needs no sympathy. “We only want society to be humane to us.”
Besides the discrimination she faced in society, her family had a tough time mobilising resources for her surgeries and other medical aid. “My father had to sell our house and his entire bank balance was empty as we had to spend Rs. 15 lakh on my medical expenses.” Though the Supreme Court had directed all States to pay acid attack victims Rs. 3 lakh towards medical treatment and for after care rehabilitation, Ms. Haseena says it is inadequate.
It was nine years after the attack of Ms. Haseena that the accused was finally convicted, even as she struggled every minute of those years. “There is a need to have a fast track court for trying cases related to acid attack victims,” she says.