Gang Rapes Force Indian Women to Seek Protection and Self-defense Training

Gang Rapes Force Indian Women to Seek Protection and Self-defense Training

In Wake of Gang Rapes, India Leaders call for Change, and Women seek Protection and Self-Defense Training

“Sexual violence and harassment towards women in India is so acute and prevalent that I believe there is a war against women. This manifests itself in rape (multiple and single perpetrator), sexual violence, harassment (“Eve teasing”) and domestic violence” says Debi Steven of UK Premier Self Defense in London. She is an active warrior in this battle as she steps up to train women to fight back and reverse cultural and religious Hindu rules of passivity for women and girls when attacked.

Steven created the non-profit Action Break Silence in 2013 to help fund her trips to train lower class women of India how to defend themselves for free. Steven has been a victim of sexual violence. “This has guided my whole career. I now have worked for 20 years to in self-defense and personal safety.” A friend of Steven’s brother raped her at age 11 but she did not admit it until age 27 because of societal rules shaming her to keep it secret, She now tells everyone she is a survivor of sexual abuse to help the fight against violence, and break the oppressive silence of females which has perpetrated the problem.

Naina Lal Kidwai, appointed President of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in December 2012, is one of the most powerful women in the India. Frédéric Bobin in the Guardian Weekly wrote that one of Lal Kidwai’s key agendas as the “boss of bosses” is to continue making progress protecting women from sexual assault in industry and in the rural areas, especially on public transport.

Indeed the Washington Post’s Annie Gowen reported on the rise of women-only buses, cabs, travel groups and hotel floors. India’s government has even launched plans for $161 million all-women banking system to launch November 19. This opening date is the birthday of Indira Gandhi, the former prime minister, the country’s most revered female.

This women-only culture is in response to campaigners demanding a new deal for India’s women in the wake of the death sentences to four attackers who gang raped and murdered 23-year-old medical student and tossed her from a moving bus in India’s capital New Delhi on December 16, 2012. Eight months later, on August 22, 2013 anger reignited in India over another gang rape of a 22-year old photojournalist occurred in an abandoned mill compound.

Women have to protect themselves more and make choices that will not put them in vulnerable places. Mary Kom, an Indian boxer is a five-time World Boxing champion and a bronze winner in the 2012 Oympics, is a spokesperson for women’s self-defense in India and has fended off an attacker. She said she was sad about the assaults in Mumbai and New Delhi. In the Hindustan Times, Kom emphasized that women need to take charge and learn the self- defense techniques to avoid getting assaulted, and warned women to avoid going into risky places like the abandoned mill and the bus with shaded windows.

Though the Delhi and Mumbai cases spiked widespread media attention and sparked nationwide protests, gang-rapes and sexual assaults are reported daily in Indian newspapers, and many more incidents escape unreported. The national violence against women continues to grow in India, sparked by too many enraged and frustrated young men with little education, little prospect of finding a wife, ready access to pornography and disrespectful attitudes towards women and girls. These issues are exasperated by India’s world record numbers reported October 17 in the Time World who “are living in slavery caused by poverty, handed-down social customs and weak enforcement of anti-slavery laws, according to a new first-ever global slavery index.”

Gethin Chamberlain wrote in The National, that “reported rapes are up year on year to 24,206 in 2011, the last year for which figures are available, although most experts agree that this merely reflects the tip of the iceberg because of the reluctance of the Indian police to take rape reports seriously.” Recently, a senior officer in Uttar Pradesh shrugged off a 35-year-old woman’s rape report saying no one would want to rape such an “old woman” who has four children. This lack of respect from police is a probable cause of conviction rates falling 44.3 per cent in the last 40 years.
Steven led a workshop July 2013 for the Red Brigade in Lucknow led by Usha Vishwakarma. Steven said, “The training was appreciated and welcomed by their amazing members, all of whom are survivors of sexual violence or rape. As a result, Usha– their founder – has confirmed that I am now their sole international instructor – a responsibility I take seriously.” She plans to lead another training in January 2014 in the southwestern state of Kerala, India, to teach 2,000 fishermen’s children. Usha and the Red Brigade will travel down to join her in a supplementary training to help local men and women become instructors.

The Red Brigade, composed of teenagers who are former victims of sexual assault, is based in a ragged, unkempt neighborhood on the outskirts of Lucknow, the capital of one of northern India’s poorest and most conservative states, Uttar Pradesh. Since Usha started the group in November 2010, it has faced opposition, but the Delhi rape last year has created more support and recognition for the group.

These girls actively patrol their local streets protecting women and girls from sexual harassment. In their matching black and red black salwar kameez — the traditional garb worn by women across South Asia — they target offending males who have harassed or assaulted women.

CNN reporter Sumnima Udas interviewed the leader of Red Brigade, Usha, who talked about the oppression of women in society. “We have to defend ourselves because the family and police won’t do anything.” She explained that the girls in her community don’t have any say on what to eat, what to wear, and are told not to say or do anything when they are attacked. Victims are forced to stay in the house after they have been raped only to face continuing abuse rather than getting out to school or somewhere else to get protection.” In the past, if the parents found out, the girls had to marry the rapist.

Although Steven has mastered both Karate do Funakoshi Shotokan and Aikido, she focuses on self-defense moves to combat sexual harassment and assault. “The hardest part is to get women to stand up and fight when they have been told their whole lives to stay passive and not speak when attacked,” says Steven.

Soon Steven has a short video highlighting the stories of the Red Brigade members in the slum of Lucknow in hopes of raising funds to support ongoing free training for impoverished women in India on Indiegogo, or visit the Action Breaks Silence website, action breaks silence

On the video one of the girls Steven interviewed, age 13, had been abducted from a water hole in her community in April 2013 and dragged into a deserted area where she was brutally raped. She kept crying and could hardly speak, and Steven asked her what was wrong. Was it that she didn’t want to admit it, or name the person who attacked her? But she said no, and explained why: “I know you have been raped and understand the pain I am going through.”

The Red Brigade is changing the slum of Lucknow and it is not only poor women who are angry; the wealthy women in India are angry, and a good number of men in India are appalled, like the ones who are supporting the work of the Red Brigade, Steven explained.
In Wake of Gang Rapes, India Leaders call for Change, and Women seek Protection and Self-Defense Training

In spite of the dark publicity about India, Steven talked about its unexpected charm: the incredible economic growth, the emerald beauty with glimpses of tigers, delicious food, and diverse and friendly people. “I have an incredible affinity for the people, and admire their diversity in religion from Buddhist to Muslim to Christianity and how well people get along.”

Steven explained how ironic it is that men in India worship numerous gods and goddesses and have brilliant ceremonies of beautiful Hindu goddesses of love “yet they treat women worse than a stray dog.” Once Steven saw thousands of men walking in Hindu skirts less than 20 km from Delhi and carrying broomsticks with small buckets on each end. It was a magnificent sight. They were traveling on foot 260 km to the Ganges River to get water and then would bring this tiny amount of water to take back to the temple. Thousands of these men lined up to perform the water ritual, and yet what role do these religious men have in the gang rapes and the general poor treatment of women?

Danelle Cheney writes that the mistreatment of women cannot be solved with all-women segregation or stricter laws but must be treated as a complex, multi-dimensional, socio-political and religious issue that has to be fought at all levels, within the leadership of families, homes, villages, states, police and government.

Recently Times of Oman wrote that the “global campaigning group Avaaz praised Milind Deora, a central government minister, for his calls for a mass public education campaign to change attitudes towards women.”

“Outdated attitudes are driving an epidemic of rape,” Avaaz campaigns director Meredith Alexander said in a statement.

Written By: Danelle T. Cheney

3 Responses to "Gang Rapes Force Indian Women to Seek Protection and Self-defense Training"

  1. Sikha   November 19, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I think you should also collect the data on Indian laws to know to which extent the draconian laws are used against Indian men and their families. Alone in 2012, ca. 100,000 Indian wives mixed domestic violence cases with rape against husband and family. As a result 150K men, 45K women (sisters and mothers of husband), 4500K grand parents (many bed-ridden), 450 minors, 2 infants and 1 dog were arrested. After being judiciary to state to police against them, 98% were acquitted. 85% complaints after 5-7 yrs of legal battle were proven wrong and guess what!! girl filing false complaint to take revenge or have control over hubby or for extorting money can not be punished at all. The appex court has asked govt to change the draconian laws. But who cares!! Welcome to the hell of men!! INDIA

  2. Debi   November 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    We do in the UK every women needs to empower herself!!

  3. kadja1   October 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Now the UK needs to do the same thing given the number of girls being “groomed” by gangs.

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