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When ‘patriarchy’ tags ‘women’ as ‘weaker sex’ in the society, exploitation and violence become an inevitable part of a woman’s life. Turn the pages of history and you will find that fear has always been used as a tool to control women. Imagine this psycho-social conditioning of mind filtering down in everybody’s life and becoming a part of common sense, what damage it can create!

In a world surrounded by loneliness and fear, an acid attack survivor Moyna Pramanik (33) has reclaimed her life, dares to dream and proudly wears her scar. LifeBeyondNumbers met Moyna to get a glimpse of her heart-wrenching story and the difficult choices she had to make to transform her crisis into opportunity.

A resident of Nowda in Murshidabad district of West Bengal, Moyna studied till class 10. Even though her family had financial constraints, still peace never left them. She was studying in class 7 when in the year 2000, her father married her off.It was a setback for me as I was unable to complete my studies, but my mother was happy as the groom’s family didn’t ask for dowry. My family felt fortunate as money was always a constant issue for people like us,” says Moyna.

Moyna Pramanik before and after the acid attack in 2001

Soon Moyna realized that the good behavior was just to conceal their vicious intentions. Her in-laws started verbally and physically abusing and torturing her for dowry. “They constantly tortured me for dowry. They called me evil for giving birth to a girl child. This further made my husband angry and he tried to kill me with a pillow, while my mother-in-law sat beside and watched. Later, I also found out that I was his second wife.”

It is sad that even when dealing with something like infidelity in marriage, a woman is barred from asking questions because society teaches you throughout not be disrespectful towards your husband.

“Six months later, in August 2001, I was attacked by my husband and in-laws with acid and then they poured kerosene and set me on fire. I was left on the floor to die; neighbors came to my rescue and admitted me into the hospital. Soon after, I filed a complaint with a local police station but it was of no use as my in-laws ran away from that area.”

Saddest part was when my daughter was growing up, she used to get scared of my sight. That used to break me apart every time.

“After the attack, I was in a precarious condition and had to go through several surgeries but some of them are pending because I cannot afford the treatment costs. Even though looking at the mirror every day reminds me of that painful day, but the saddest part was when my daughter was growing up, she used to get scared of my sight. That used to break me apart every time.”

When you carry the physical marks on your body, it seems that the incident keeps repeating with you every day. Because it is the memory of the incident and the emotions attached to it that makes you feel uncomfortable.

In a society where physical appearance or good looks is valued more than ethics, living a comfortable life after losing a face is not easy. What makes it more difficult? People come to you and show sympathy instead of love.

“Previously, it was difficult to ignore the stares, when I used to step out from my home. All of a sudden, people look at you out of curiosity, show sympathy for what happened. It is very hurtful to accept. It was difficult in the beginning, but eventually, I learned to live with it.”

There is no word in the English dictionary that can explain the plight of women living with the scars. Yet brave women, like Moyna, instead of wallowing in self-pity they have chosen to fight their circumstances and make the best of the opportunities.

“It takes a lot of energy to keep a grudge alive but I have learned to live life in a better manner and finally I have found peace. I cook meals for children at a center, which is under ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) programme and is a part of Anganwadi Services Scheme. I now earn Rs.3000 per month.”

It takes a lot of energy to keep a grudge alive but I have learned to live life in a better manner and finally I have found peace.

Acid attack is an outcome of power play and it is made easy by a patriarchal society, particularly in the rural belt of India. The very idea that one can get away with the crime, is a major factor why the acid attacks are on the rise across the globe. Unfortunately, we are a part of the society where if a woman talks about her rights, it makes a chauvinistic man uncomfortable.

Since 2010, Acid Survivors Foundation India (ASFI) has been relentlessly working in eradicating violence from the society and the organization is now helping women like Moyna who have lost her face to acid. The organization helps these survivors by providing medicines, helping them in surgeries, fighting legal battles. The problem with the acid attack is that it not only leaves behind the physical scars but one has to deal with the mental scars on a daily basis.

As per the ASFI data, between 2010 and 2016, the top three Indian states that reported the highest number of Acid Violence are West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi with 220, 213, and 141 cases respectively.

Acid Attack victims across India

Moyna is a lot more than her scars. She is a financially independent woman now and is living life on her own terms. You can sense her strength and the courage to fight to bounce back in life when she smilingly says:

I am learning to grow happy by embracing all my scars. I want my daughter to study more, fight her own battle and stand on her feet before getting married. Education is very important and helps you to choose right from wrong.

When YOU decide to break the silence, come forward and fight for your rights, then it becomes the first step towards your healing!

Moyna Pramanik before and after the acid attack in 2001