It is the women who have to come forward themselves and raise voice in order to put an end to violence against women in society, says Nurun Nahar Begum.
“I am an acid survivor. At present, I have a strong will power, hard-working capability and the patience to overcome all the barriers that come my way to become a successful person,” says Nahar, an activist of the women’s rights team of ActionAid Bangladesh from 2004.
Nahar shares her tale of sufferings and how she overcame it.
“The incident took place back in 1995 when I was only 15 years old living in Patuakhali. From my friends, I came to know that a boy named Jasim liked me. But talking to a boy, let alone entering into a relationship, was almost unimaginable in my family,” she tells the Dhaka Tribune.
“So, considering my family background, I could not accept his proposal and expressed my unwillingness through my friends.
“My rejection affected him gravely. He was only 17, and felt embarrassed in front of his friends. At present, I understand that my rejection dealt a severe blow at his self-esteem.
“One night he came with five to six boys to my house. At first my family members thought they were robbers. Entering my house, he threw acid on my body and left without taking anything,” Nahar says.
The 36-year-old acid survivor says she now regrets having not talked to the boy directly explaining her situation. “I could have told him why it would not be possible for me to enter into a relationship with him. I think if I had told him myself about my situation, things would have turned differently.”
In reply to a query, she says: “After the incident, I was isolated from society. Mostly I stayed inside home; I used to cover my face always when I went out. But at one time, I was introduced to prominent women’s rights activist Nasreen Pervin Huq as my counsellor. She taught me that there are many scars in human life; some are visible and some are not. My scar in no way is my stigma.
“She gave me the courage and confidence I lacked. She took me outside the door and gave me the strength to face the world. Since then, I have been working with acid survivors. I also tell all survivors to come forward and raise their voice against violence against women.”
Nahar who is currently pursuing her Master’s degree, expresses her self-confidence: “Today I earn my family’s expenditures. I feel proud to be called the head of the family. At present, if anyone passes any offensive comment on the street, I protest instantly. I even have been told that I had experienced the terrible incident of acid violence because of my aggressive personality. But that could not stop me from protesting stalking.
“I encourage all girls to protect themselves and raise their voices against any kind of injustice and violence against women.
“I see in news that acid throwing incidents have increased over the time. Although there are two laws to contain the brutal practice – Acid Control Act 2002 and Acid Crime Prevention Act 2002 – still I do not see any end to this.”
According to Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), a significant portion of attacks occur when a woman exercises her decision-making authority by rejecting a marriage or love proposal. Most acid attacks are perpetrated by the people known to the victims and the attacks are often triggered by refusal to sexual advances or marriage proposals or failure to pay dowry or by land disputes.
In 2015, there were 59 incidents of acid attacks with a number of 74 survivors.