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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

#COURAGE: Indian acid attack campaigner honoured by US State Department

An Indian acid attack victim who became the "standard bearer" for the campaign against the horrific crimes in her country has won the International Women of Courage Award granted by the United States State Department.

In 2005 'Laxmi', then just 15, had acid thrown in her face by a man whose romantic advances she had spurned, causing permanent damage to her face and upper body.

Rather than retreat to safety after the attack - perpetrated by a man known to her brother - she has used her plight to raise awareness of acid attacks which remain widespread in India.

She has appeared on national television on numerous occasions and spearheading a campaign which prompted the Indian parliament to introduce new measures to better regulate the sale of acid as well as make it is easier to pursue legal action against attackers.

In a statement on its website on Tuesday, the US State Department said: "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."

"Much is left to be done, and Laxmi continues to advocate on behalf of acid attack victims throughout India for increased compensation, effective prosecution and prevention of acid attacks, and rehabilitation of survivors," the statement added.

Prior to her attack, Laxmi - the daughter of a chef at an industrialists' home in South Delhi - had aspired to be a singer.  She was just 15 when her 32-year-old attacker first proposed marriage, a proposal Laxmi refused.

After a year of relentlessly pursuing Laxmi, the man carried out the attack along with an accomplice.  Whilst the attack shocked the nation, the attacker was out on bail within a month and had even got married to avoid a long jail sentence. 

After initially retreating to the safety and comfort of her home, Laxmi determined to fight and prevent the same fate visiting other young girls like her. 

In 2013 the State Department granted the same award to Jyoti Singh Pandey the 23-year-old student whose appalling gang rape and subsequent death sparked nationwide protests in India.

Among the other women leaders honoured by the State Deparment this year are Afghan gynaecologist Dr Nasrin Oryakhil; Fijian democracy campaigner Roshika Deo and Ms Beatrice Mtetwa, described as "the most prominent human rights lawyer in Zimbabwe".

 

- Video courtesy of Barcroft Media.

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