India

Indian acid attack survivor is new face of fashion brand

  • 13 January 2016
  • From the section India
Laxmi Saa poses for Viva n' Diva Image copyright Viva N Diva
Image caption Viva N Diva said it picked Ms Saa because it wanted to change the outlook of people towards fashion and beauty

An Indian fashion retail brand has signed up prominent acid attack survivor and campaigner Laxmi Saa to be the face of its new range of designer outfits for women, in a campaign they are calling "Face of Courage".

Ms Saa was 15 when a 32-year-old man threw acid at her for rejecting his offer of marriage.

"It felt cold first. Then I felt an intense burning. Then the liquid melted my skin," she remembers about the attack.

Since then, she has become one of India's most outspoken advocates against the unregulated sale of acid, as well as for harsher punishment for the perpetrators of acid attacks.

"This opportunity to represent an apparel brand was a platform for me to set an example for women like me to be confident and have courage despite their physical appearances. This was also a platform for me to send a clear message to criminals that women will not lose courage even after they are attacked with acid to destroy their physical beauty," Ms Saa told the BBC.

Image copyright Viva N Diva
Image caption Laxmi Saa is one of India's most outspoken advocates against the sale of acid
Image copyright Viva N Diva
Image caption Laxmi Saa says this is a platform for her to send a clear message that women will not lose courage even after they are attacked with acid to destroy their physical beauty

According to one estimate by the Acid Survivors Trust International, there could be as many as 1,000 acid attacks every year in India alone, many of which go unreported.

Despite this, the country does not have any specific law to prosecute acid attackers.

However in 2013, the Supreme Court of India acted on a petition filed by Ms Saa and directed state governments to formulate a policy to regulate over-the-counter sale of acid in India.

The apparel company Viva N Diva, for which Ms Saa is modelling, said it chose her out of a desire to change the outlook of people towards fashion and beauty by spreading awareness that beauty is beyond mere physical attributes.

Ms Saa agrees that there need to be wider conversations on the issue.

"The problem is not just in being a victim but also your victimisation by the society. We are treated as if we are good for nothing and as if our lives are a waste," she said.

Image copyright Viva N Diva
Image caption "For a moment I had seen beauty in a very different way and we wanted to capture it"

Co-founder of Viva N Diva, Rupesh Jhawar, told the BBC that the idea for the campaign with Ms Saa came after he saw a calendar featuring acid attack survivors.

"To my eyes that are used to seeing fashion models with flawless skins dolled up in front of the cameras everyday, this view was both disturbing and inspiring.

"For a moment I had seen beauty in a very different way and we wanted to capture it - remove any speck of being a victim from those eyes and give them a stage, an employment, a platform, a medium to flaunt it with style."