In 2010, roughly 12 years ago, Daulat Bi Khan, a 26-year-old makeup artist was sitting on a sofa, when her family members in a fit of anger threw acid on her face. As part of the retaliation to a confrontation Daulat had with her sister and brother-in-law, she was left with a disfigured face and a broken spirit. Along with her, two of her younger sisters and her niece were attacked as well, left broken by the actions of their own family members.
When she recovered, she started the hunt for a new job, but things weren’t looking good for her. People were openly shunning her to stay away from them. This led to her having to beg for money and medicines. The hands that used to make others beautiful were forced to beg for survival. However, despite the traumatic incident that completely changed her life, Daulat stood strong and decided to advocate for those who had faced the same circumstances as her, other survivors of acid attacks.
After not having the courage to even get out of bed for six months, Daulat was motivated by her elder daughter to take back her life. Speaking about her experience in a news publication, Daulat said, “My eldest daughter inspired me to stand up again and fight for myself and my family. She told me that I should think of myself as a beautiful human. She gave me the courage to start my life all over again.”
Daulat sowed the seeds for a non-governmental organization called Acid Attack Survivor Sahas Foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO that provides counseling, education, as well as employment opportunities to 26 victims of acid attacks. This has provided survivors a new lease to a happier life and given Daulat a purpose to fight for. “Many acid attack survivors are treated as untouchables post the attack. They lose their entire self-esteem. I want to do my bit to help these survivors restart their life, and gain a job so that they can sustain, and feed themselves and their families. Also, acid survivors need to undergo several surgeries and need financial aid. How are they supposed to raise the money if they are not given jobs?” She explains.
Until 2013, the Indian Criminal Law did not identify acid attacks as a distinct offense. But the Supreme Court directive that made it a punishable offense as per Section 326A of the Indian Penal Code gave the survivors the satisfaction that their abusers would now be tried by the law. “I am glad that this has become a punishable offense. Nobody has the right to ruin a person’s life.” Daulat concludes.