18-year-old Reshma was attacked by her brother-in-law and his friends. Now she's fighting back.
Looking at the camera, Reshma Bano Quereshi exfoliates her lips with a toothbrush. She chooses a liner and, when that’s been applied, pulls out a peach-coloured MAC lipstick. ‘Looks perfect, right?’ she says, as she smiles.
But behind her beam, her expression is sad.
‘You’ll find a red lipstick easily in the market, just like concentrated acid,’ she says, slowly. ‘This is the reason why, every day, a girl becomes a victim of an acid attack.’
And Reshma knows firsthand what that means. Irreparably disfigured and blinded in one eye when her brother-in-law and his friends attacked her in 2014 – pinning her down and pouring acid over her face – she’s spent the last year campaigning to raise awareness of the frequency of attacks in India, and the ease with which you can buy acid. (No reason has been given for this attack.)
But while Reshma is the star of the three-vid-long YouTube series, the film was created by 22-year-old Ria Sharma, who founded India-based campaign, Make Love Not Scars after realising how many women across the country were being assaulted. The lipstick tutorial is the first of three beauty videos due to be released this month, and calls for a total ban on the sale of cleaning fluids containing acids.
Now Ria’s started a petition too, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When she reaches 25,000 signatures, she plans to bring it to his office personally. Because while acid attacks are illegal in India, they’re still frequent. So frequent, in fact, that it’s estimated one woman is disfigured every single day.
‘What’s the use of having rules when nobody’s actually following them?’ she explains. ‘When people look at an acid victim, they can’t handle disfigurement. They find them scary, repulsive, and immediately distance themselves from it.’ She doesn’t want people to feel sorry for Reshma, but she wants to ‘get people to relate to [her]. We wanted them to look at Reshma and say, “She can be cool and hip too. She’s just like me!”
Sign the petition and help women like Reshma here.