Meet the acid attack survivor who challenged Nepal's laws to help others like herSangita Magar's life was changed forever after she was attacked with acid three years ago. Since then, she has been speaking up against violence against women and raising her voice to support survivors.
Monika Deupala & Sanjog Manandhar
Sixteen-year-old Sangita Magar and her friend Sima Basnet were walking back home after classes when the world came down on them. Jiwan BK, a 20-year-old boy from the neighbourhood, hurled acid on Magar. In excruciating pain, Magar ran home to her mother, who poured water on her face as pieces of flesh started to fall. The last thing Magar recalls is being rushed to a hospital in a taxi.
That fateful day was three years ago, on February 22, 2015. Since the initial attack, Magar has faced years of physical and mental anguish. She had initially thought that she would recover and that doctors would find a way to heal and fix her face. Everything came tumbling down when doctors told her that a full recovery would never be possible.
Along with bearing the unbearable pain of having acid dumped on her, Magar faced constant scrutiny from the police and media, who hounded her for weeks following the assault. There was misleading news about the incident and many reports raised questions about her character.
At the hospital, Magar developed suicidal thoughts. She wanted to end her life by jumping out of the hospital window. Even after she was discharged, she was constantly questioned, blamed and shamed for the attack. Each time she left her house, the public pointed at her face and talked behind her back.
Unable to deal with these situations, Magar isolated herself and rarely came out of her house. But the isolation, in hindsight, was a boon. A determined Magar, indifferent to the public attitude, appeared from her cocoon and did what no one else had been able to do.
Magar challenged the country’s law on acid and burn violence and persuaded the Supreme Court to order that survivors receive immediate financial support from the government to cover treatment. The provision came into effect on August 17, 2018, as part of the new civil and criminal code. The court also ordered the government to regulate the sale of acid, which hasn’t been followed up as of yet.
Magar believes the new law will prevent acid attacks and wants to continue her work to support survivors. Now high school graduates, Magar, along with her friend Basnet, has been raising funds to assist other acid and burn survivors.
The video above was produced by Sanjog Manandhar and Monika Deupala as a part of multimedia and web documentary workshop hosted by Photo Kathmandu.