Meet Sonia Shaikh: the acid attack survivor who stars in India's first Transgender web-series

The story of Sonia Shaikh is one of resilience, of determination, of a fighter spirit and the need to persevere in the face of adversity.

“I am Sonia Shaikh, a transwoman and an acid attack survivor”, she says with pride in the opening teaser for India’s first-ever Transgender web-series, Alif- Sonia. As per Make Love Not Scars, an NGO seeking to provide aid and vocational opportunities to acid attack survivors, Sonia didn’t just survive an acid attack, she was also allegedly raped by her long-time stalker and his friend.

The NGO is using the crowdfunding platform to raise money for Sonia so that she can undergo the required surgeries for her treatment and is helping her in becoming self-sustained so that she can start her own business one day.

InUth reached out to Sonia and she told us of her childhood, the social stigma she faced, and how she met the man who eventually attacked her:

Her life as a transwoman was full of strife ever since she was a kid. Sonia recounts, “My father used to scold me since I was always fond of dressing up and dancing, even as a child. He passed away when I was just 7 years old.”

Even as a teenager Sonia was totally smitten by dancing. She would secretly dress up as a girl when she was a teenager and perform. But when her brother found out, it resulted in violence. It was her mother who stood up for her back then, but the stigma was such that relatives made it almost impossible for her to stay at home. “My relatives would tell me don’t sit on the dining table with us, don’t enter our room, I was sick of them and so I left home to live with my community.”

Sonia moved in with the transgender community in Golkonda, Hyderabad. It was here that her love for dancing was actually realised and she began dancing at marriages and functions that the troupe followed. Sonia never got the opportunity to get formal training in dance but she learned all her adas from her Guru Saakshi.

In May 2015, life as Sonia knew changed forever after a stalker and his friend allegedly raped her and threw acid at her when they were done. Reason? She rebuffed his obsessive attention to her.

“I couldn’t go anywhere without having the fear of him following me. He told me to stop dancing and began calling my other sisters to the point that he was stalking every move,” recounts Sonia as her voice trembles with emotion over the phone.

In his pursuit of Sonia, the stalker tried to impose his will on her – making unacceptable demands by asking her to quit dancing and being friendly with other transgenders. He even went so far to ask for a share of her paychecks. When Sonia began to distance herself, he began pestering her friends in the transgender community whom she stayed with.

When she wouldn’t relent to accept any of his demands, one day in the guise of reconciliation he asked her to meet him one last time. Sonia acquiesced. But the night took a turn for the worse when her stalker took her to a farmhouse where he and his friend threatened, abused and then allegedly raped her. While dropping her back home, he dumped her a kilometer away from where she lived and threw acid on her.

“I kept screaming in pain. At that point, I hadn’t even realised what had happened, I hadn’t realised that it was ultimately he and not acid that had ruined my life forever.”

If finding a job wasn’t easy for Sonia before, in the aftermath of the acid attack, it only became worse. Sonia who supports her mother and sisters, says ruefully: “I look for a job but they mock me with questions like are you a boy or a girl, they suggest that I should go and dance at the traffic signal as if that is all I am good for.”

At the hospital, Trans Vision approached her and asked whether she would like to tell her story. Directed by Rachana Mudraboyina, the web series was intended to start a healthy conversation concerning the socio-economic and cultural dynamics of the trans community.

Through an eight-episode web series, Rachana intends to tell stories of several trans people like Sonia in Deccani Urdu.

“I said yes almost immediately. What better way to tell the world about this horrible injustice that has been done to me and that still continues to be done to our community,” she says.

You can watch the teaser of Alif- Sonia here:

Also Read: Delhi University Admission 2017: DU reserve seats for acid attack survivors, ‘more space’ for differently abled students

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