Women take up self-defense, pepper spray after India rape

Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:42am EST
 
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By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Women in India's capital are taking self-defense classes, snapping up pepper sprays, booking cabs with female drivers or leaving work early, all signs of growing insecurity following the brutal gang rape and murder of a student last month.

The assault on the 23-year-old - who was raped by six people and tortured with an iron bar on a bus, then left bleeding on a highway - stunned the nation and generated an unprecedented wave of protests calling for better security for women.

In response to the public outrage, authorities have initiated several measures to instill confidence, but many women say they cannot rely on India's often gender-insensitive and under-resourced police force to ensure their security.

"It's no secret that Delhi is unsafe for women. A lot of us have known it for a long time, but this case has brought things to light," said Sunanda Jalote, 18, a psychology student, attending her first self-defense class with Invictus Survival Sciences in South Delhi.

"It really has hit the confidence of women in the city. We don't want to feel like that. We want to be able to go out wherever we want, at any time of day or night, and feel safe. So you have to learn how to defend yourself."

New Delhi, with a burgeoning population of 16 million, has the unsavory reputation of being the country's "rape capital", recording more rapes annually than any other Indian city.

There were 706 rapes reported in 2012, a 23 percent rise from the previous year, according to the Delhi police, while molestation cases rose by 11 percent to 727.

FEMALE CAB DRIVERS, PEPPER SPRAY   Continued...

 
Sweety, 22, a student, takes a self defence class in New Delhi, January 14, 2013. Sweety travels four hours every day from her village to the city to learn karate and taekwondo. She said, "boys in my village are scared to tease me after I beat up one boy who was passing lewd comments on me". Since a medical student died after being gang raped on a bus in New Delhi, the issue of women's security in India has been under the spotlight. Picture taken January 14, 2013. REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal