Fighting back

Indian schoolgirls learning self defense to hit back against sexual predators

Police constables Renu, left, and Amita work with young women in a self-defense training camp run by the Delhi Special Police Unit for Women and Children, in New Delhi, India, Jan. 10, 2018. (The New York Times)

Schoolgirls in New Delhi, India, are taking self-defense classes as part of a police initiative to help protect and build the confidence of girls as the country struggles to deal with a persistent problem of sexual violence. Police Constable Renu, who like many Indians goes by one name, has been teaching a free 10-day self defense course to girls in Delhi’s public schools and universities — starting by teaching them to scream for help at maximum volume. Many girls, Renu explained, were too shy to even make enough noise to alert others to their predicament.

“To be able to make such a sound is empowering in itself,” she said.

During a recent class, Renu led approximately 180 girls between the ages of 11 and 17 through exercises in which they defended themselves from men grabbing them from behind with swift forceful strikes to vital areas. One student, Mona Shamsher, told The New York Times that her elder sister had been assaulted while on a walk in their neighborhood last year.

“At this time, girls aren’t safe. Men treat us like we aren’t human,” the 16-year-old said, adding that the self-defense classes had helped to restore her sense of confidence — and safety.

Nearly six years on from the fatal gang rape of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh on a bus in 2012, the country faces more than 100 instances of sexual assault every day, according to a report from Human Rights Watch. In a particularly heinous recent case, an 8-year-old girl was kidnapped, gang raped and murdered. But things don’t always end that way. In a recent incident, a teenager in Bengal who is proficient in martial arts reportedly fought off three men who were trying to sexually assault her in an alleyway.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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