The Acid Survivors Foundation India (ASFI) reports that last year alone, 349 people in India, mostly women, had acid thrown on them in deliberate assaults. This number is three times higher than it was in 2013 and more than four times higher than it was 2010.
The ASFI attributes the high number of acid attacks against Indian women to a myriad of socio-cultural and politico-economic factors in the country, such as the 1.3 billion strong population, which is multilingual, multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, endemic poverty, and gender inequality.
The acid attacks are often motivated by land and property conflicts, conflicts in intimate relations, sexual rejection, and social, political and religious differences. In some cases, the perpetrators throw acid at female students as a punishment for attending school.
Used to clean toilets and sinks, a litre of acid costs less than a dollar.
After a massive crowdfunding campaign by Stop Acid Attacks, an advocacy group committed to ending acts of violence against women, Sheroes Hangout opened in December 2014. The café serves as an empowering space for women who are survivors of acid attacks.
Sheroes Hangout is a readers' cafe, an activism workshop, a community radio hub, and an exhibition space where works created by Sheroes are on display. Stop Acid Attacks also provides skills training in the subject that each survivor is interested in learning.
The café is run by five women who were all maimed in acid attacks, the youngest is 20-year-old survivor Chanchal Kumari, she was attacked in 2012 after she refused a man’s marriage proposal.
There are no set prices at Sheroes Hangout, the café runs on a “pay as you wish” system. The proceeds and contributions go toward the rehabilitation of survivors of acid violence in India.