India’s Acid Burn Victims Crowdsource Treatment Costs After Attacks

Indians bear witness to an estimated 1,000 acid attacks a year, largely against women rejecting unwanted marriage proposals or defending themselves against male attackers. Now these victims, often from impoverished backgrounds, are crowdfunding the thousands of dollars it costs to treat their wounds.

Indiegogo is hosting two live campaigns to raise funds for women that have had acid thrown at them, including a successful bid to raise $2,000 for 22-year old married housemaid Nisha who was attacked for rejecting the marriage proposal of a fellow slum dweller in Ghaziabad, in India’s north. She sustained burns over 50 percent of her body and was moved to the Emergency Care Unit of Delhi’s Safadarjang Hospital, where her two young children and rickshaw-puller husband await her recovery.

The treatment costs are almost double India’s average per-capita income, which stood at $1,420 in 2012, and are many times the earning capacity of a slum-dwelling family.

About four months ago, donors contributed the $2,045 required for the treatment of Chanchal, who had acid tipped on her in October, 2012 by a group of men who had sexually harassed her. The men were retaliating after she tried to report their crimes.

Advocacy group Stop Acid Attacks, which estimates there are over 1,000 attacks a year in India, has helped organised six campaigns on behalf of victims, including for Chanchla and Nisha, and also to raise funds for its own operations.

The group said that $20 buys a round trip to Delhi for one of the family members for their treatment; $100 affords better legal aid; and $1,000 could sustain Chanchal until the time she can move around on her own.

“Although $2,000 is a very humble amount, it can help Chanchal and her sister a lot with their treatment,” the group wrote.

There is also a campaign to raise a similar amount to pay the ongoing treatment costs for Laxmi, who was attacked by two youths at Khan market, New Delhi in 2005, when she was just 15 years old. She had refused to marry one of her attackers. Her face and body were left disfigured, and her campaign, currently at about 20 percent of its $2,000 goal, hopes to use the funds for her final cosmetic surgeries — which has so far cost about $50,000 (3 million rupees) across seven reconstructive operations.

In 2006, Laxmi filed a public interest litigation seeking to ban the sale of toxic liquids. Last month, India’s central government deemed acids, such as hydrochloric, sulfuric and nitric, as a poison under the Poison Act 1919, limiting sales to buyers over 18 years old, carrying photo ID, who purchase it from a licensed store. Previously the dissolving chemical could be purchased over-the-counter at general stores across India, for less than a fifty cents a liter.