ISLAMABAD: The scorching pain when the acid comes into contact with the skin and the burning sensation she will remember for the rest of her life; every time she looks at herself in the mirror there will be a scar to remind her, a scar that will never go away.

The play “Mardangi ya haywangi” (manliness or barbarity) , was presented at the Europeans Union National Child Rights Art Festival at the National Library.

The acid victims breathed life into the performances as they related to the audience the humiliation and agony they had to suffer at the hands of society and, in some cases, their own family.

Acid burn victims retell their stories on Tuesday. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID.

Acid burn victims retell their stories on Tuesday. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID.

In the play, each victim enacted their own true life story. All cast members wore masks during the course of the play; this made for a more powerful impact in the end, when all the masks were taken off.

The play started with a girl’s story of how she became a victim of the heinous crime at the hands of a feudal lord, after she refused to reciprocate his advances.

Another girl blamed her family to be the cause behind her suffering because she had raised an objection to marriage, while a transgender told her tale of how she was taken away from her family by the transgender community and became a dancer.

However she too could not escape from the unfortunate turn of events and became a victim after she refused to have sexual relations with a man, who in a fit of rage threw acid on her face; she was scarred and blinded forever.

The common elements in these stories were not lost on anyone. It is ironic how they all became victims for refusing to do something they felt wasn’t right.

Raising important voices

In the second play, children performed “Humari Awaz” (Our Voice).

The play emphasized heinous injustices towards children by focusing on three characters.

The first character is poor and is verbally and physically abused by his teacher for not paying the tuition fees. When he asks his father for the money, he is forced into domestic employment instead. There, the boy is subjected to further beatings at the hands of his employer.

The second character is the son of middle class parents where the father transfers all responsibility of upbringing to the mother. He is seen making excuses to skip school — his dreams lie in professional dance, an ambition ridiculed by his father.

The contrasting situations of the first and second characters over their willingness to learn begs the question of whether creativity is a privilege of the financially secure only.

The third character’s affluent background throws another perspective into the mix: an absent father building an “empire” and a social butterfly mother abandoning her son on his birthday. He has everything except what he craves most: the love and attention of his parents.

Then a fairy godmother emerges to bring the three boys together. As they are discussing their respective plights, a policeman arrests them for no apparent reason. What follows is a time-honoured tale: the child of the affluent family is released first after a phone call from his father; the middle class family character is released after his father bribes the policeman; the underprivileged child is left at the police station.

However, the play ends on a hopeful note. A judge announces that no child will be ignored, beaten, forced and education will be a must from this moment forward.

Originally Published by Acid Survivors Pakistan.

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