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Michelle Obama honours acid attack victim Laxmi

March 05, 2014 04:33 IST

Michelle Obama honours acid attack victim Laxmi

Laxmi, an acid attack victim and a standard-bearer for the movement to end acid attacks in India, was honoured in the United States on Tuesday with the prestigious International Women of Courage Award.

First Lady Michelle Obama paid tribute to the 10 chosen for the award, saying the winners should be an inspiration to women around the world.

"When we see these women raise their voices, and move their feet and empower others to create change, we need to realise that each of us has that same power, and that same obligation," Obama said at the State Department ceremony.

Laxmi read her first poem at the ceremony defiantly telling her attacker "you will hear and you will be told, that the face you burned is the face I love now.

"You will hear about me in the darkness of confinement. The time will be a burden for you, when you will know that I am alive, free and thriving and living my dreams."

Laxmi was 16 when an acquaintance threw acid on her face while she waited at a bus stop in New Delhi's busy Khan Market in 2005, disfiguring her permanently.

Her attacker, a friend's 32-year old brother, planned to use the acid to destroy Laxmi's face after she refused to respond to his romantic advances.

"Many acid attack victims never return to normal life: they often go to great lengths to hide their disfigurement, many forgo education or employment rather than appear in public, and suicide is not uncommon. But Laxmi did not hide," the State Department said.

"She became the standard-bearer in India for the movement to end acid attacks. She made repeated appearances on national television, gathered 27,000 signatures for a petition to curb acid sales, and took her cause to the Indian Supreme Court," it said.

Last year, Nirbhaya, a courageous 23-year-old girl whose brutal gang rape on a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012, triggered widespread protests, received the prestigious award.

Established in 2007, the annual Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award honours women around the globe who have exemplified exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights, women's equality, and social progress, often at great personal risk.

This is the only Department of State award that pays tribute to emerging women leaders worldwide.

Other recipients of this year's award include Nasrin Oryakhil (Afghanistan), Roshika Deo (Fiji), Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze (Georgia), Iris Yassmin Barrios Aguilar (Guatemala), Fatimata Toure (Mali), Maha Al Muneef (Saudi Arabia), Oinikhol Bobonazarova (Tajikistan), Ruslana Lyzhychko (Ukraine) and Beatrice Mtetwa (Zimbabwe). 

Image: US First Lady Michelle Obama honors 2014 International Women of Courage Awardee Laxmi, a Campaigner for Stop Acid Attacks in India, at the 2014 Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award Ceremony
Photographs: US State Department

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