The strength of a woman

Friday - - Editor's Letter -

She was 15, pretty and wanted to be a singer. But Laxmi Agar­wal heeded her fa­ther’s warn­ings to con­cen­trate on her stud­ies be­fore seek­ing her dream of fame. And then a man she barely knew an­nounced he was in love with her and wanted to marry her. He was 32, a vir­tual stranger and Laxmi wasn’t in­ter­ested and ig­nored his ad­vances. So what did he do? Try to per­suade her? Ro­mance her with flow­ers? Or re­alise she was too young and take the hint? No, he took re­venge in the cru­ellest, most hate­ful way: he threw acid in her face in an at­tempt to make sure she was so dis­fig­ured no other man would ever want her.

Sadly Laxmi is not alone. Ev­ery year an es­ti­mated 1,000 women in In­dia are vic­tims of acid at­tacks, mostly car­ried out by men who per­ceive they’ve been re­jected. Laxmi had never dated or en­cour­aged her at­tacker – he was her friend’s el­der brother, not a po­ten­tial suitor. That didn’t stop him maim­ing her for life with cor­ro­sive acid that made the skin on her face melt.

But while her looks van­ished, her brave spirit didn’t, and af­ter seven op­er­a­tions, Laxmi has found the courage to face the world. Her face will be scarred for­ever, but in­side she still feels beau­ti­ful. A co-worker at Stop Acid At­tacks, a cam­paign­ing and sup­port char­ity, thinks so too and the cou­ple are set to marry. Read her in­cred­i­ble story on page 18 where she says, “It is amaz­ing – one man de­stroys my life, an­other is giv­ing me one.”

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