In the continuance of their visit to India, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge invited the women who refused to surrender against all the odds at the. Laxmi was invited to represent the survivors of acid violence and received a grand welcome from the prince and princess.
Laxmi also gifted them the SheRoes Calendar modeled but the survivors of acid attacks & invite the couple to visit the cafe SheRoes Hangout in Agra during their visit to the monument of love Taj Mahal.
Laxmi is an International Women of Courage and the campaigner with a mission to Stop Acid Attacks. Knowing the Laxmi’s long journey & her struggle to ensure justice to the acid attack survivors, Prince William and Kate were whole-hearted to meet Laxmi to know how the royal family can help the mission during their visit in India. In Laxmi’s Tuesday meeting, agenda was to highlight this much ignored issue which is emerging as a bigger challenge in present society.
Laxmi, 27, was selected to brief Prince William during a personal interaction at the British High Commission on Tuesday. The meeting was convened at the personal request of prince Williams who wanted an opportunity to hear directly from women working to support other women and girls. He also wanted to get a sense of work being done to help young women to achieve their full potential and for men to become more supportive of the women and girls in their lives.
Laxmi was so delighted to meet Kate and William for the first time and expressed her gratitude for inviting her, also bringing the issue of acid violence in the larger public domain. “Though, it is a positive step towards a social change, I strongly believes there is a dire need of wider dialogue on the issue”, said Laxmi in her informal conversation. “The problem is victimization by the society. We are treated as if we are good for nothing and as if our lives are a waste. Such endeavors of meeting and inviting us is certainly setting a bench mark and bringing our issue in the mainstream”, explained Laxmi when she was asked how she regained her strength after her acid attack. “Our life is not going to stop. Understanding the psyche of the criminal, I have realized, what they want is to make you live a life confined to closed spaces. But I have fought back and I urge every girl to fight for survival and come out strong.” smiled Laxmi and invited the couple to visit her cafe which is being run and managed by the survivors who have faced one of the most heinous crimes practiced against humanity.
“if it was us we would have shaken from such difficulties which you faced in your life”, said the prince after knowing what happened with Laxmi and many other girls who face such a brutal crime.
Laxmi, was attacked with acid in 2005 in a busy marketplace when she was only 16-years-old by a man more than twice her age, whose advances she rejected. She has been fighting a lonely battle since 2006 in the Supreme Court, and in the process, succeeded in getting the Indian Penal Code amended to make acid attack a special offense. She further persuaded the court to increase the compensation for survivors to Rs. 3 lakh, besides procuring a complete ban on over-the-counter sale of acid.
Acid attack is a global phenomenon that is not restricted to a particular age, caste, religion, gender, or geographical location. Surprisingly, acid attacks have soared by up to 30 percent in the last two years in Britain. Criminals in UK are turning to corrosive substances as a cheaper alternative to guns and knives. So is the condition in India where 309 cases were reported in year 2014. Since 2012, more than 500 offenses in which people were injured or threatened with harmful substances shows how dangerous weapon acid can become if it is not controlled effectively. The governments in all the counties needs to look into this subject with far greater seriousness to understand why these attacks are occurring and what can be done to prevent them occurring.
“I will discuss with these issues with Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) today in the lunch”, assured Prince Williams before he left the venue.
Thankfully, the Prince kept his words and also wrote about his meeting on his official blog (https://www.royal.uk/duke-and-duchess-cambridge-meet-womens-rights-advocates-india). It mentions,
"Their Royal Highnesses met acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal and heard about her inspirational campaign ‘Stop Acid Attacks’. Laxmi was attacked at 15 by a 32 year old man after she rejected his marriage proposal. She explained her decision to stop covering her face in order to encourage other victims not to hide and also spoke of her successful fight for tougher legal restrictions on the sale of acid. The Duke thanked her for her bravery. Laxmi is now a TV host, and director of the Chhanv Foundation, a NGO dedicated to help survivors of acid attacks in India. http://www.chhanv.org/"
The Royal couple is on a seven-day tour of India and Bhutan from April 10- April 16.
In India acid attacks are form of gender based violence aimed at silencing and controlling women. Their use as a weapon against women who refuse sexual or other advances is on the rise in India. In South Asia, disputes over land, inheritances, dowries, and declined marriage proposals often arouse jealousy, which lead to acid violence and women becomes the first victim of it. Acid attacks are intensely inhuman crimes because the perpetrators plan to disfigure the victims rather than kill them. Acid is also easily available and cheap, which is thrown at women. These attacks make them disfigured, often blinded, and severely traumatized. The lives of many women, deprived of free choice and independence in this way, have been destroyed.
SheRoes Hangout Sheroes Hangout project is a self-sustainable entrepreneurial model café which can be operated by acid attack survivors for their self-growth and empowerment. Such hangout places empower a survivor of acid attack to breakthrough social dogmas and taboos relating to these cases in our society.
Sheroes Hangout is a café near the Taj Mahal, Agra, which is run by five women who have all survived acid attacks. Instead of succumbing to victimhood and staying in hiding, these women have decided to lead a normal respectable life and go to work. Sheroes Hangout is also the country's first cafe chain managed and run by acid attack survivors, opened to brisk business and supportive crowds in Agra and Lucknow.
It is home to five acid attack survivors from the Stop Acid Attack (SAA) campaign, who manage accounts, take orders, even mop the place. Along with the boutique, the café also has a reading section, and has become extremely popular among tourists and locals alike. Campaigners and survivors are working together to make the café a place where people can meet, have snacks and beverages, read books, buy souvenirs and learn to share their space with acid attack survivors
Stop Acid Attacks
The Stop Acid Attacks campaign was flagged on 8th March 2013 which is also celebrated as International Women’s Day to stand for acid attacks survivors and against acid attacks in India. Our then concept was to work as a bridge between survivors and the society, as most of the victims of this brutal crime, which is much more grave in its impact than a rape, have isolated themselves after losing their face. Due to ignorance of the government and civil society, most survivors find no hope and stay like an outcast, in solitude. SAA aims to research and track acid attack cases and compile a data to get the actual situation of survivors. Eventually it led to the establishment of Chhanv Foundation on 2nd September 2014 as a registered treaty.