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At just five years old, Najaf was burned by her father in her sleep. He didn’t want another girl in the family. She’s now blind and lives with her relatives, as both of her parents abandoned her after the attack. She’s had 15 reconstructive surgeries so far.

Pakistani women pose for a powerful and tough-to-look-at series by photographer Emilio Morenatti aimed at raising domestic violence awareness and giving long-silent victims a voice. These women are horribly disfigured via acid attacks after saying no to the men who have asked for their hands in marriage. The images are of course scary at first glance, but the beauty of them still standing, despite being attacked in such a vicious way is inspiring. Around 1,500 attacks are recorded every year, but there’s probably many more.

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Morenatti hopes not only to highlight these horrendous crimes, but also to turn survivors into heroes who inspire global change. Forty-eight percent of girls in South Asia are forced to marry before the age of 18 and 14 million girls will become child brides this year alone! If any of these girls refuse, they face acid attacks at the hands of their would-be husbands or even husbands who are bored by their wives! Acid attacks are often a form of gender-based violence and, as such, they occur most commonly in countries where women are disenfranchised. It’s become a symbol of control in many countries.

Not all of the women who are subjects of Morenatti’s work said no to a proposed marriage, some of them, like Najaf above, simply lived through the wrong fate (in the eyes of her father) of being born a girl. Najaf’s father didn’t want any more women in his family. He attacked her with acid as she slept. Najaf is now blind, has had 15 surgeries since her attack and has been disowned by her family.

In 2010, a bill regarding acid violence—which specifically targets acid related crimes by providing graver punishments for the attackers and by regulating the sale and purchase of acid—was submitted to the National Assembly of Pakistan. But this only marked the beginning of a long legislative process and it requires some time before the law is successfully adopted and effectively enforced. It will also require a strong political will, which until now, has proven inadequate, if not nonexistent. Indeed, in most of those cases, justice has not been served against the perpetrators, which have often been able to walk away. Nor has adequate compensation and support been granted to the victims.

At least there are organizations like the Global Fund For Women envisions a just, equitable and sustainable world in which women and girls have resources, voices, choices and opportunities to realize their full potentials. But this isn’t enough. We need worldwide outrage and support for these women!

Check out some of the beautifully haunting photos (by: Emilio Morenatti for the Associated Press) below:






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