World | India

Devices devised to counter rape

Purchase of pepper spray, whistles, self-defence classes on the rise

  • By Nilima Pathak, Correspondent
  • Published: 21:19 January 29, 2013
  • Gulf News

New Delhi: From Gurgaon to Gandhinagar and Madurai to Madhubani, both advices and devices are being given to women before they set out of home. The general feeling all over the country is that women are not safe.

While this has led to some women looking up for self-defence tools, others are just reeling under fear and going about their lives unprotected.

In many cases, fathers, brothers and husbands are gearing up to protect their women.

Ashita, a 19-year-old call centre employee says, “My younger brother handed me a can of pepper spray a fortnight back when I was leaving for office. A day before, he had heard me talking to a friend requesting her to buy one for me.”

Available with chemists and online, though pepper spray is seen as the most effective and handy tool for women to carry in their handbags, the humble whistle is considered the next best option.

“It may sound bizarre to many, but when in trouble, a whistle is the best instrument to attract immediate attention of people. Raising an alarm at an early stage can help a woman to escape from the clutches of an attacker,” says Gracy, an activist.

Gracy was, however, surprised that many girls mock at the idea of keeping a whistle handy. “I am amazed that young girls in Delhi are still not considering protecting themselves. Except trying to get home early, no other precautions are being taken,” she said.

A number of girls admitted being afraid of travelling alone by public transport, especially in the evening, but were living on hope.

As Gracy puts in, “Most of us live under the illusion that rape and sexual harassment will happen only to others. Thus, many incidents of harassment are treated as part of life and taken lightly. But then I am also aware that girls belonging to humble backgrounds have no choice.”

Saroj Kumari, mother of two teenage girls affirms, “I work as a housemaid and both my daughters have to travel quite a distance to go to school. But I can neither afford to enrol them into self-defence training classes, nor can buy any kind of chilly spray for them. So, all I do is advise them to move in a group.”

The fact is that a majority of girls are instructed to apply just this methodology for safety.

But on the other hand, Sanjay, a karate expert advises women to train in martial arts to tackle a surprise attack. “Martial arts training leads to making people mentally strong. A girl may be carrying a pepper spray, but of what use can it be if she is scared and unable to use it to defend herself.”

Terming martial arts as the most convincing self-defence tool, he feels that it not only provides self-confidence to a girl, but also instils courage and prepares her to fight any kind of odd situation. “A month’s course teaches how to incapacitate assailants with punches and kicks and provides tips to sharpen an individual’s reflexes,” he informs.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police claims there has been a sudden spurt in number of women requesting for gun licences. An official of the Delhi Police, Licensing Department informed that in the last two years, more than 800 women had applied to possess arms. Incidentally, almost all of them were working women belonging to well-off families.

The official revealed, “While around 320 applications were received in 2010, the figures rose to 500 in 2011. And out of the 33 women who received licences that year, 12 had cited self-defence as a reason in their application. Others had applied under the inheritance clause. Similarly, last year, about a dozen women were granted the right to possess arms on the basis of personal threats.”

However, a call centre executive, who travels at odd hours and stays alone in the city, was livid that the authorities had turned down her request to possess a pistol. “The police kept asking me if I was being threatened or stalked. They refused to understand the fear that I have of being waylaid by unruly elements in the night,” she said.

Nevertheless, the self-sufficient girl has been carrying a pistol illegally. “I will not hesitate to use it in self-defence. I am not sure of the police, but hope the judiciary will come to my defence in case of any untoward eventuality,” she remarked.

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