Annapurna, a 36-year-old woman from a small village in Madhya Pradesh and an OBC background, has been left with a permanent disability after defending herself from being raped by her serial harasser. In the face of extreme and widespread violence against women, however, her courageous resistance stands out.On her way to work every day, Annapurna was facing molestation by the same man. One day, the harassment escalated to an attempt at rape. When the would-be rapist was faced with strong resistance from Annapurna, he attempted to quash her fighting spirit. He attacked her even more brutally, cutting off her hand with an axe and horribly injuring her legs.
Passers-by discovered the injured Annapurna, and transported her to the hospital. It was only after two months of treatment that Annapurna was finally able to return home to her family. Unfortunately, her troubles were not over, and she soon had to be sent back to the hospital. After sub-par initial treatment, the deep wounds in her feet had become infected, and one of her legs had to be medically amputated to prevent the infection from spreading.
Despite her attacker’s best attempts, however, Annapurna was not deterred from fighting back. With the help of civil society groups and organizations, she began to advocate for action by the local administration against the culprit. Gauravi, a one-stop crisis centre run in Bhopal as a collaborative project by the Government of Madhya Pradesh and ActionAid India, provided legal advice and organised moot court to support Annapurna as she pursued the case. Thanks to Annapurna’s efforts, a fast-track court awarded an exemplary judgement, and the culprit has now been jailed.
Annapurna’s rehabilitation is now well underway. She underwent physiotherapy in a local government hospital, and with the support of ActionAid, she has received a disability pension card from the district rehabilitation centre and compensation under various rehabilitation schemes.
Annapurna is looking forward to an upcoming visit to the Udaipur artificial organ centre, where she will receive prosthetic limbs. She will be accompanied and supported here by staff from ActionAid and its partners and all her treatment costs will be borne by the local administration.
Annapurna’s story is sadly one of many. Every minute in some corner of the world a woman or girl faces violence. In conversations with ActionAid, Annapurna has spoken of the great numbers of women who are facing abuse today, and her plans to support them; she is committed to reporting violence to the police and extending whatever support she can to other women in her village.
As she says, “I will stand on my feet, organize women in the village against violence and will continue to fight against violence against women”.
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