Taking the initiative

In India, women increasingly take self-defense classes to protect themselves from rape

(Twitter / CNN)

In New Delhi, India, public authorities are increasingly encouraging women to take up self-defense training so that they can protect themselves from sexual assault. The country’s escalating problem with sexual harassment and rape — in 2016, more than 58,000 rapes were reported across India, compared to just 33,000 such case reported in 2012, according to the National Crime Records Bureau — has led public organizations such as the Delhi Police Department to step up the number of defense training classes they offer. Participants in the police program, most of whom range in age from 28 to 50, practice dealing with such situations as a man attempting to rub against them on a bus by shouting forcefully, punching them in the stomach, or even breaking the groper’s arm.

Aisha Ahmada, a seamstress for nonprofit organization Goonj, which collects donations for flood and earthquake victims but also helps organize the self-defense classes, said that the classes help her to feel safer, and that she hopes they will also serve to protect her daughters, who are 6 and 7 years old. Giving birth, she said, was one of the most painful experiences of her life — but “it would hurt even more if something happens to them.”

Not everyone is convinced of the efficacy of the classes, however. Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre of Social Research, a non-governmental organization focused on gender equality that helps refer people to the classes, noted that over time most participants in the program would come to forget the self-defense lessons they had learned.

“This may be a temporary thing for [the] short term, but it is not useful in the long term. Something should be started to educate boys in society. The focus is too much on women,” she explained. “I feel this is something that is ideologically putting the onus of responsibility on women. You blame the women. You ask them to wear different clothes, not to go out and now to take these classes.”

Watch video of the self-defense classes below.

Read the full story at CNN.

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