EMPOWERING ABUSED WOMEN

Body art - from scars of violence

RUSSIA • Ms Evguenia Zakhar, 33, is not just any tattoo artist. Every Monday, in her studio in Ufa, Russia, she works on the scars of women who have been abused, turning them, for free, into art.

Women such as Dinara, 20, whose body is covered with the marks of the beatings she suffered her entire life from her father and then her husband.

Dinara now lives alone with her toddler Amelia. "Seeing my scars, my daughter started to draw the same marks on her arms... I feel so ashamed, I can't bear it," she said.

Ms Zakhar was inspired by the work of Brazilian tattoo artist Flavia Carvalho. Since August last year, she has been offering her service for free via the Russian social network Vkontakte.

In six months, more than 200 women found themselves in her expert hands. Each is a victim of abuse from a violent father, husband or lover. Her role has become that of psychologist to them too. "To start with, it was painful to hear these stories, but little by little, I learnt how to listen. Now, I even suggest that they share their story one last time - before leaving it behind them forever once the tattoo is finished," she said.

In the future, Ms Zakhar is hoping to set out by motorbike to travel around Russia with her partner, to offer her services to abused women in other regions. She is looking for potential sponsors.

The commitment of this young tattooist is all the more symbolic in Russia, which recently introduced a law decriminalising domestic violence.

The legislation provoked strong reactions from the Russian public, with some people fearing it would normalise the violence.

According to the Russian Minister of Internal Affairs, 36,000 women are victims of domestic violence every year, with 12,000 killed as a result. Worldwide, nearly one in three women faces domestic violence.[£67-£398]

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Body art - from scars of violence'. Print Edition | Subscribe