Let us speak about International Women's Day on the 8th of March 2018.
Once upon a time, chemical warfare was used to bring nations to their knees and undermine the power of a state.
Soldiers raped women; gases and acids stripped flesh from bone; blisters pussed and sores careened as mists and mustards slowly killed their victims. Chemical warfare was eventually prohibited.
Nothing has changed. Warfare rages as men continue to rape and abuse women. She has become the GI Jane in her fight for survival - a soldier on the frontline of a treacherous war.
South Africa has become the hottest landscape for gender-based violence. Showered by a pandemic of acid and fire, abuse and assault. Our beauty sheathed in horror.
Acid burns, whether accidental or non-accidental, form part of the burns spectrum and are undeniably gender-based; used deliberately to make the woman undesirable to the opposite sex; in crimes of passion; to coerce her into sex slavery; prostitution, human trafficking or as punishment. Declined marraige proposals. Evil desires to disable the target's identity and the face is the hotspot.
It is too easy to acquire acid; to douse the victim with petrol, deliver burns with a blowtorch and the effects are far more devastating and torturous than conventional methods, resulting in lifelong disfigurement and social absence and rejection. Punishment for these crimes must be a life sentence. Where are the offenders and what is their punishment?
Acid and open flame burns present immediate trauma as it burns into the skin, destroys all tissue and even bone. It melts away flesh. Reintegration is very slim for severely disfigured survivor as they battle multiple levels of trauma.
Often, the guilty walk away without taking responsibility or understanding the depths of their actions.
It is interesting to note that in awareness campaigns the flame is used as a symbol of victory, yet it is the very object that represents the burns survivor's abuse and injuries. It is a reminder of her trauma.
This is indicative of how unaware the world is concerning the dynamics which surrounds this severely marginalised and ostracised group. A group who is a yet to be specified as part of the victims of gender based violence.
This non-inclusion, as with chemical warfare, undermines the essence of a female burn survivor and dilutes the power of the state to effectively care for her.
Help us STOP the stigma and rejection of burn survivors.
Acid and fire abuse is the heyday method of assault and abuse. It is used even in robberies. Nobody is immune.
We must tighten restrictions on chemical acquisition.
Give South African, and particularly Capetonian female acid and burn survivors a voice among the other voices of the world.
* Beulah Kleinveldt writes on behalf of the Campio Burns Group, a South African non-profit awareness and support organisation with a global mission to assist in the holistic wellness and social cohesion process of burn survivors.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.