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Michelle Obama honours Indian acid attack survivor Laxmi

Mar 05, 2014 08:48 AM IST India India

Washington: Acid attack survivor Laxmi has been hounoured by US first lady Michelle Obama with the prestigious International Women of Courage award.

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. She has ever since been campaigning for justice for acid victims. CNN-IBN had honoured Laxmi and other acid attack survivors with the Indian of the Year award in 2013.

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.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who was earlier scheduled to be present at the awards ceremony, had to skip the function to travel to Kiev in the aftermath of the Ukrainian situation. He was represented by Deputy Secretary of State Heather A Higginbottom.

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).

(With inputs from PTI)