There are almost 700 million people in the world who have some form of disability. Disability comes in many forms and with a host of causes. Some causes are genetic; some are a result of disease or accident.
That should be enough.
But it isn’t, because in many parts of the world disability is actively and deliberately created.
Recently, a 2008 New York Times story about attacks on Pakistani women has resurfaced in several other contexts (warning: graphic images of disfigured women).
Some women are attacked because they have had the temerity to divorce their husbands (warning, graphic images of disfigured women); girls are attacked because they transgressed male-dominated notions that they should not get educated. Others are assaulted for no reason at all except that they are female.
As I reread the story, I wondered why we are so silent about the hundreds of thousands of women who are horribly disfigured by their husbands or other males with a cultural weapon of choice: acid.
The question of course, is why acid? Why is it almost always flung in women’s faces?
Three reasons, at least.
One, in many cultures, men matter way more than women, and the male sense of entitlement, including the entitlement to punish women, is reinforced by the rest of the society. Men are rarely held accountable for these horrific actions and generally they feel justified in committing these atrocities.
Two, disfiguring women’s faces is particularly cruel because in many cultures, people with disabilities are shunned, especially those who have very visible “defects.” What could be more vicious than deliberately creating visible defects like grotesquely maimed faces destroyed by acid? Missing ears. Gaping holes where noses or eyes used to be. Mottled skin literally melted into contorted masks of horror.
Three, in these same societies, women so destroyed are not only shunned because of their disfigurement, but their disabilities mean they will likely not be able to work to feed themselves and their families.
Their lives are shattered. They are deliberately manufactured outcasts.
Some are speaking out in some small way.
Many more of us need to do the same.