US honours Indian acid attack victim with International Women of Courage Award

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US First Lady Michelle Obama (L) applauds for Laxmi as she is awarded the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award 2014 during a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, DC, on March 4, 2014

Washington:  Laxmi, a victim of acid attack and a standard-bearer for the movement to end acid attacks, has been selected by the US for the prestigious International Women of Courage Award.

Laxmi received the award from US First Lady Michelle Obama at an awards ceremony at the State Department in Washington.

She 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.

"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," the State Department said.

"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," it said.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who was earlier scheduled to be present at the awards ceremony, is now travelling 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.

The award was presented to Laxmi along with other awardees from countries across the globe.

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.

Among other awardees are 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).

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