Help Sonia , A Transwomen gang rape and acid attack survivor

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Sonia Sheikh transgender acid attack victim
Photo courtesy : Ketto.org

Born into a large family with 6 sisters and 2 brothers, little did Sonia know that her transition from childhood to adulthood would be masked with searing pain and scars. She had a happy childhood and loved dancing. However, since she was born a boy, her father did not encourage her love for dancing. Her father passed away when Sonia was 7 but the restrictions did not end. As Sonia started growing up, she felt trapped in a male body and her mother was the first one to notice. In the beginning, her mother tried persuading Sonia to play outdoor sports like all the other boys her age but gradually she accepted Sonia the way she was. Little did Sonia know that her life as an adult would be haunted by a vicious gangraped and acid attack.

Sonia was 12 when she visited an event with her family and was introduced to some people from the transgender community by her maternal uncle. Sonia instantly identified with those people and she started visiting them regularly and pursued her passion to dance. Sonia was happy with her life and was finally enjoying doing what she always dreamt of- dancing.

But Sonia’s family was unaware of her involvement with the transgender community except her mother, who supported her child. In one such event, one of Sonia’s elder brother’s friend saw Sonia performing at a wedding and informed her brother. That night, Sonia was beaten black and blue by her brother. She tried to end her precious life.

That’s when her mother came forward and stood up for her and sternly told all her other children to let Sonia live her life the way she wants. But Sonia was so dejected that she ran away and went on to stay with the transgender community. She stayed with them for more than 2 years before coming back home. She was completely transformed when she back home and conducted herself as a female now. However, she has had no surgery to modify her gender. She stayed at home for a few months but would not step of the house for the fear of social stigma.

At 15, she went back to stay with the transgender community because she did not want to attract unwanted attention to her family and her work. When she was 20, she was approached by a boy named Nadeem who took her number saying that he wants her to perform at an event. He started calling her numerous times a day and just casually talked or asked her to meet. One day Sonia asked him to stop calling her and only contact her when the said event would take place. That’s when Nadeem confessed his feelings for her and told Sonia that he really liked her.

As Sonia painfully describes, she had so many responsibilities to shoulder and the taboo of being a transgender that she carried with her, that she could never imagine falling in love. But with Nadeem’s constant efforts, Sonia gradually became more friendly with him. They started to meet regularly and became good friends. However, this did not last long and soon Nadeem started to trouble Sonia.

He started demanding money from her- the money she was earning by dancing at functions, he would threaten her to stop working without his permission and would call her incessantly each day. The situation only got worse with time as Nadeem would call Sonia at any time of the day and force her to meet him. If Sonia would not agree then Nadeem would create a scene where she lived. From just pestering Sonia, he went on to contact the other people she lived with and would verbally abuse them, threaten them and ask them to abandon Sonia.

Nadeem also went to Sonia’s house, where her mother and younger sister lived and abused Sonia and her family in front of the neighborhood. Tired of this, Sonia contacted the police. But Nadeem was well networked and he got out with just a verbal warning and no formal complaint was lodged. Sonia spent sleepless nights as she felt threatened and other members of her community also started to shun her. Then one day Nadeem called Sonia to apologize and reconcile everything.

Sonia was finally relieved and wished Nadeem the best in life. 3 days later Sonia again received a call from Nadeem asking her to meet. He requested her to meet before they both get busy with their lives and their work and came to pick her up while Sonia was still at work. Nadeem did not budge and waited for Sonia. When Sonia came out, she saw another guy in the car who Nadeem introduced as his friend. Sonia was a little surprised as Nadeem had never brought any other friend along.

They started driving and once they were on the outskirts of the city, Nadeem and his friend insisted that they should go to the friend’s farmhouse and have a party. Sonia resisted at first but eventually agreed. Once at the farmhouse, things were normal for some time until Nadeem and his friend started to misbehave. They abused and physically assaulted Sonia and threatened to kill her. Sonia was terrified and there was nobody around to help. Both of them then raped Sonia and started to drive back towards the city.

They abruptly stopped the car 1 kilometer before where they had to drop Sonia and doused her with acid which was already kept in the car. They threw her from a moving car and drove away. Sonia asked for help all around but nobody came forward. She recalls somehow reaching her house where she lived with other people from the transgender community after which she fell unconscious.

She woke up after that in a government hospital. She suffers 54% burns on the right side of her body- her face, ear, neck, shoulder and the chest were affected in the attack. She now lives with her family- her mother and her younger sister who have now taken up jobs to support their livelihood. Sonia wishes to be able to run a small business of her own and wants to professionally take up the many skills that she possesses- dancing, cooking, knitting & stitching and make-up art.

Today, Sonia lives in pain. Acid is a cruel act of revenge and Sonia has struggled for far too long. Today, Make Love Not Scars is raising funds for Sonia’s surgeries and if you wish to help change Sonia’s life, you can donate here: http://ket.to/helpsonia

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