The agony of being burned alive is unimaginable and, for those who survive this brutal assault, the pain continues for a lifetime. In India, the burden of this insidious act falls primarily on women who are often attacked by their husbands. For survivors, life is dramatically different than before the assault. They are scarred and disfigured, sometimes beyond recognition. They are even singled out for differential treatment and are sometimes even believed to hold evil supernatural powers. They are the victims of stigma. When a woman is burned, the attack is only the beginning of a long and painful journey through life. Following the physical pain of the burns, the surgeries, and the subsequent scarring comes the worst part: living with disfigurement. This study attempts to make sociological sense of the stories of Indian women who have been attacked with fire by their husbands. The data show that after women are attacked by kerosene-laced fire, they experience two more traumas in their lives. First, society changes their identities. They are no longer "a woman," instead they are transformed into a "burned woman." Second, because that identity change is dramatic and permanent, disfigured women to varying degrees are socially ex-communicated and treated as pariahs. The present study seeks to determine how and why disfigurement stigma happens in India and the consequences of that stigma on the lives of burned women. Subject: India Studies, Gender Studies, Criminology, Sociology]
Women, Violence and Social Stigma: A Sociology of Burn Attacks
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