Bangladesh hosted a fashion show with a difference to mark International Women’s Day, featuring 15 confident catwalk models fighting to overcome the trauma of acid attacks.
Such horrific violence across South Asia is often prompted by insufficient dowries, rejection of advances or land disputes, disfiguring victims for life and ruining their prospects.
Sonali Khatun, 13, who had acid thrown on her face when she was just 17 days old over a family property dispute, led Tuesday night’s parade.
She spent almost three years in hospital undergoing eight operations but never gave up hope of living a full life.
“I want to be a doctor,” the told the audience, which was spontaneously cheering and clapping.
In 2008 at age 24, model Asma Khatun’s dreams were shattered when attackers poured acid over her four-member family, including her one-year-old daughter, while they were asleep, again because of a land dispute.
“The attackers were never caught but my whole family had to endure a lot of suffering,” she said. “...I am so thrilled to be here.” Farah Kabir, Bangladesh country director of British charity ActionAid, which hosted the show called “Beauty Redefined”, said the girls and women showed their inner strength.
“They have come a long way,” she said.
In 2002, Bangladesh passed laws restricting the import and sale of acid and imposing the death penalty for acid throwers.
“This is something really close to my heart,” designer Bibi Russell said. “I want them [survivors]to have recognition. Let them have life as a part of this world.” Ganga Dasi, 40, had acid thrown on her face at the age of 17 after she refused a marriage proposal.
“I lost all hope to live. No one came forward to help us,” she said as she was preparing for the show.
“I am now more confident. I will not hide my face any more.”