An Indian woman whose face was disfigured when a man threw acid in her face after she rejected his advances has been awarded the International Women of Courage Award.
According to the State Department, Laxmi, who is also a volunteer for the Indian NGO Stop Acid Attacks, was honored for her bravery in the wake of the attack and her tireless commitment to speaking out on behalf of other victims:
Laxmi was 16 [in 2005] when an acquaintance threw acid on her face while she waited at a bus stop, 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.
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. Laxmi's petition led the Supreme Court to order the Indian central and state governments to regulate immediately the sale of acid, and the Parliament to make prosecutions of acid attacks easier to pursue. 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.
According to State.gov "Established in 2007, the annual Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award honors 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."
Here are the other women who received the award: 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 via AP Images.