Acid attacks have for long been used in India, especially as a form of violence against women. Section 326(A) and 326(B) of the Indian Penal Code severely punish acid attacks and attempted acid attacks, and legislation has also been passed to provide compensation to the victims of acid attacks but the practice continues. Highly concentrated acid continues to be easily available, at low prices. The law and the movement in support of acid attack survivors has not yet been able to stop acid attacks, or ensured that survivors face an easy road to recovery and rehabilitation. Most victims continue to face discrimination after violent attacks after them. Orange Café is an initiative to help acid attack survivors stand on their own feet while providing them the opportunity to challenge patriarchal norms that force them into social and economic deprivation.
What is Orange Café?
In February 2020, a group of acid attack survivors from Uttar Pradesh, started ‘The Orange Café and Restaurant’ in Varanasi, built on the theme, ‘Standing for a violence-free world’. While the café is owned, run and managed by women survivors of patriarchal violence, it has been set up though the collaborative efforts of the Red Brigade Trust, a grassroots-based civil society organisation, the Care Today Fund, set up by the India Today Group to help people affected by tragedies and ActionAid Association. Owning and running a business has been helping the brave survivors show the world that they are more than just victims. With every meal they serve, they change the attitude of their customers, and build support for women standing against violence.
Supporting acid attack victims during COVID-19
Within a month of the café’s inauguration, the outbreak of COVID-19 occurred across the country and the lockdown to contain its spread. The threat of the spread of infection and the necessary lockdown has led to socio-economic crises, which like all emergency situations disproportionately affects people and communities already living in vulnerability and exclusion. These are the daily wagers and low income households, who depend on the informal sector whose income stopped with the lock down, and have little or no access to government provision and no savings to fall upon. Amid the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, the acid attack survivors running the Orange Café decided to continue serving food, not to paying customers but to support the most vulnerable communities living in the city.
Starting March 30, 2020 these brave women prepared upto 200 food packets every day for those most marginalized. With generous support from volunteers and locals in the city, till May 5, 2020 they distributed 6,800 food packets among daily wage earners, migrant labourers, rickshaw-pullers, single women, and the old aged and differently abled people. As part of this initiative, they have been able to cover 14 areas of Varanasi, namely, Saket Nagar basti, Nawabganj, near Assi Nallaha, Kabir Nagar, Maalihaan, Kiwalyadham Colony, homeless shelter home of Manihaari Tola, Ghasiyari Tola, Sukulpura, Khojanwan, Manasnagar, Sigra, Ravinderpuri and Gurudham.
Supporting acid attack victims
Now, these brave women are fighting to keep the Orange Café alive. The survivors running Orange Café are serving their communities and provoking change in people’s attitudes towards the survivors like them. With no revenues from the business in the initial months of its opening, they need your help to ensure that the café survives the first year so that they do not lose their hard-earned business. Your support can help them keep up with rent, electricity and raw material costs, and help pay the wages of the survivors and other staff that work at the café till they can stand on their own feet.
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