Ria Sharma

She refused a marriage proposal. She was too beautiful. He wanted revenge. These are all “reasons” for acid attacks against women in countries across the globe. These are the “reasons” why many survivors are forced to live their lives in constant pain while navigating endless surgeries and unimaginable trauma.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 222 cases of acid attacks reported in India in 2015. These attacks are often extremely personal, as husbands, relatives and loved ones carry out this brutal, highly gendered form of violence—for retribution, for jealousy, for whatever wrongdoing perceived by the attacker. While acid attacks are personal, the effects are publicly scarred on the faces and bodies of survivors.

But for Ria Sharma, survivors are much more than their scars. The 24-year-old founder of Make Love Not Scars, Ria returned to India in the third year of her graduate program at Leeds College of Arts in the United Kingdom to make a documentary on acid attack survivors. While the working on the documentary, Ria was inspired to support the women she’d met. Now a renowned organization, Make Love Not Scars is a Delhi-based NGO dedicated to providing acid attack survivors an opportunity to reclaim their lives through recovery, legal and medical aid, and reintegration into society. In 2015, Make Love Not Scars created the campaign “End Acid Sale”, which called for a universal ban on retail acid sales. To date, the organization has helped many survivors receive free treatment.

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