In India, selling acid to anyone under 18 is banned. These 4 women can explain why.

Note: This story contains descriptions of gender-based violence.

20 years ago, Geeta Mahor was asleep with her two toddler daughters when her husband poured acid on them.

His reasoning? He was upset that she hadn’t brought him a son. Her 3-year-old daughter, Neetu, was left blind while her 1-year-old daughter, Krishna, died as a result of the burns a few weeks after the incident.


Over a decade later, Geeta — now more noticeable because of her scars — was approached by a member of India’s Stop Acid Attacks campaign. The group helped Geeta start a small kitchen to support herself, which eventually turned into a venue where survivors of acid attacks could redefine themselves as change-makers and heroines.

Geeta Mohr. All photos taken by Amund Bakke Foss and used with permission.

Acid attacks are heinous, gender-based crimes that are becoming more common in India.

In fact, India now has one of the highest rates of gender-based acid violence worldwide. According to a 2011 study, 72% of the cases reported in India from 2002 to 2010 included at least one female victim. In most of these cases, the perpetrators were men. While there are no exact recent figures available for India, in 2014 the Acid Survivors Foundation India documented 394 acid attacks nationwide, which triples the figures documented from the previous year.

"This number can be attributed to more women coming out and complaining about the crime, better mechanism of documenting the crime and the police's improved attitude towards handling the cases more seriously," said Janhavi Dave, a feminist activist working on gender and livelihood issues in India.

Agra, a city in the Uttar Pradesh state of northern India, is home to the kitchen that Geeta opened years ago, now called Sheroes’ Hangout.

Sheroes’ Hangout café in the city of Agra.

Sheroes’ Hangout, launched in late 2014, serves delicious food and drinks in the shadow of a glamorous neighbor: the ivory-white marble palace of the Taj Mahal. But since its opening, it has also had a larger purpose: to become a beacon of hope and strength for survivors of acid attacks and a center for art, education, and activism.

"In a small kitchen, I can fulfill my dreams, but with a big café, not only my dreams, but the dreams of all acid attack survivors in India," Geeta said.

The café is currently run by five female survivors of acid attacks, and four of them told me their stories.

The team includes Geeta and her daughter Neetu, who is now 24. The acid might have burned Neetu’s face and eyes, but it didn't reach her big welcoming smile.

Neetu sits at the café’s entrance to welcome visitors.

20-year-old Ritu Saini, a former professional volleyball player, is the manager of the café. In a case of revenge for unrequited love, Ritu’s cousin hired people to attack her with acid as she walked in the streets of her hometown Rohtak in the Indian state of Haryana.

Ritu is the Sheroes’ Hangout’s manager.

The youngest "shero" at the hangout is 16-year-old Dolly Kumari from Agra.

"I read about the café in the newspapers, so I decided to join the fight. I wanted to stop living in the closet and being ashamed, and my family supported me," she said.

Dolly was attacked three years ago by a man who constantly harassed her as she walked to school. "I told my parents, and they had a fight with him, my parents verbally abused him. One day I was playing with my siblings, and to take vengeance he poured acid on my face," Dolly explained.

The fight against acid attacks in India is still on, led by women like Dolly, Ritu, Geeta, and Neetu.

Several acid attack laws were passed in India in early 2013, including the Criminal Law Act. Under the new law, a person convicted of carrying out or being involved in an acid attack would face a minimum of 10 years of imprisonment and a maximum of a life sentence.

And in July 2013, India's Supreme Court also ordered that acid should not be sold to anyone under the age of 18 in an attempt to reduce attacks on women. At the same time, the court ordered a financial entitlement of 300,000 rupees to the survivors to help with rehabilitation as well.

(From left) Geeta, Ritu, Neetu, and Dolly.

But in 2014, a report analyzing 55 cases of acid attack in India indicated that on average it still took between 5 and 10 years for a legal case to be concluded and that only a few survivors actually received compensation.

Indian feminists like the sheroes welcome the supreme court’s ruling, but they also see that there is a long road ahead.

For example, it is still easier to buy concentrated acid than eyeliner or lipstick at Indian markets.

"Acid attack survivors want to adjust back into the society and be economically independent, but due to physical disability as a result of the attack or because of the popular notion of 'beauty,' the survivors are bereft of job opportunities. Spaces like Sheroes’ Hangout provide an opportunity to not only earn, but also continue their fight of activism," Dave said.

Geeta, Neetu, Ritu, and Dolly recently returned to their café after a short trip to the city of Lucknow, where they helped to open a second branch of Sheroes’ Hangout on International Women’s Day.

"I am very happy about the Lucknow branch. Seven survivors are running the café and starting a reach-out Stop Acid Attacks campaign sponsored by the Uttar Pradesh government," Geeta said.

Ritu, Dolly, and Geeta enjoy a cold drink in the Agra kitchen after their trip to Lucknow.

The Sheroes’ Hangout pay-as-you-want menu sums up the mission of the cafe pretty well: "Snacks are served with the chutney of empowerment," the menu reads. "Drinks are made using the sugar of happiness."

While I'm there, a customer approaches Ritu and tells her that the sheroes are a worldwide inspiration. Ritu's face lights up.

"People on the streets of Agra used to say hurtful comments about my face," she says. "After the success of the café, people come from all over the world to take pictures with us. Life is good."

True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

Most of us did some tumbling moves as kids, from somersaults to cartwheels. A chosen few could pull off more impressive moves, like handsprings and backflips. But guaranteed, no kid that any of us knew could do anything close to the feats 5-year-old Li Jiamin can do.

A video of Li doing 80 back handsprings in under a minute (some people counted 82—it's really hard to keep track without making yourself dizzy) has gone viral, with more than a million views on Twitter alone.

At first, you might assume it's a looped video (I know I did). But watch the way the wrinkles build up in the side and top of the mattress. If there's a loop in there somewhere, it doesn't account for most of the flips, and when you see what else Li can do, the feat becomes a whole lot more believable.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.