In India, there are estimated to be up to three acid attacks against girls and women every day. Potential suitors and angry husbands wield the caustic weapon against girls and women who reject or anger them. Laxmi Agarwal was 15 when she was attacked by a stalker; Dolly was only twelve. Neither allowed their disfigurement to achieve what their attackers desired - to control them, erase them, and force them into a life of "If I can't have you then no one will." Ms. Agarwal obtained 27,000 signatures on a petition to tighten acid sales and distribution. Dolly works at a cafe run by a local organization rightly-named Sheroes.
Acid attacks aren't common in western countries. However, these types of attacks affect women in other countries including Bangladesh and Cambodia, are rising in Colombia, and are seen in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.
What do acid attacks in countries around the world have in common with girls' lives in places like the United States (U.S.) and Europe? They have more in common than you might think. Acid attacks are about power and control - a man's power and control over a girl/woman. These stories almost always involve a man who likes/loves a woman and when she doesn't reciprocate he takes his revenge.
Think about that. The core of these stories is that a man likes/love a woman "so much" that he is driven to hurt her.
Now let's step back for a moment. Girls and women in western countries hear this same story a great deal. It doesn't involve acid, but it often involves violence or harassment or control. When girls are harassed in school by their male classmates, they're told "Oh, he must like you." A romantic trope in many of our movies is the boy pursues the girl relentlessly until she finally says yes (because she didn't really mean no to begin with). If a girl doesn't like this male attention she's "gay," "too sensitive," "uptight," or other derogatory gems.
A girl is all of these things because she doesn't like a boy. A woman is all of these things if she's moved on from a relationship. Too often the spurned man exacts his revenge.
Between 2001-2012 in the U.S., almost twice as many women were killed by someone who "loved" them as U.S. soldiers died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Roughly three women a day die at the hands of men who "love" them in the United States alone. Globally, about half of all women killed died at the hands of people who "loved" them. This behavior is socialized and learned by both men and women, boys and girls.
What can Justice Girls do to make a change? Quite a bit, it turns out. Here are just a few ideas.
Violence isn't love and love isn't violence. Girls (and women) have a right to choose whom they like (and don't like) and girls (and women) have a right to say no.
The Justice Girls commends and thanks everyone who works towards creating a world that teaches girls AND boys these important lessons. Let's end domestic violence in our lifetime.