Acid Attack Survivor’s Makeup Tutorials Offer More Than Beauty Tips

Along with crafting the perfect cat eye, this 18-year-old wants to ban the sale of acid in India.
Sep 3, 2015·
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

This how-to clip starts out much like any other YouTube makeup tutorial: A smiling teenager explains how to expertly apply eyeliner. But the lighthearted music ceases as the Indian teen notes that concentrated acid costs less than a tube of liquid eyeliner in India—and it’s just as easy to purchase.

“This is the reason why, every day, a girl becomes a victim of an acid attack,” explains 18-year-old Reshma Bano Quereshi, who was attacked with sulfuric acid by her brother-in-law and two other men last year.

Quereshi is the face of the newest campaign from Make Love Not Scars, an Indian nonprofit that supports the survivors of acid attacks. Over three videos released this month, Quereshi will pair makeup tips with a call to sign an online petition that asks India’s top officials to ban the sale of over-the-counter acid.

The Supreme Court of India attempted to deter the purchase of acid with strict regulations established in 2013. Those looking to obtain acid must be at least 18, have valid identification, and present a reason for buying it. Shop owners are required to list acid as a poison and report purchases to the police or face fines. According to the Make Love Not Scars petition, these laws are often unenforced: Acid is still advertised as a cleaning product and widely available for purchase.

Last year, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs reported 309 acid attacks. Across the globe, as many as 1,500 people—the majority of whom are women or girls—are attacked with acid every year. Although the attacks are rarely fatal, they cause permanent disfigurement, including scarring, blindness, hearing loss, peeled skin, and exposed cartilage. Beyond the physical pain, survivors suffer psychologically. Disfigurement often leaves women shunned by their communities and unable to find work.

Along with requesting an all-out ban on the sale of acid, the Make Love Not Scars petition asks for stronger implementation of rules, restrictions on acid manufacturing, random checks by state authorities, and promotion of alternative cleaning supplies. So far the petition has more than 50,000 signatures.