You may have seen a few of the viral videos of Indian women standing up to their attackers and harassers. There is a movement bubbling in the country where they are tired of being a statistic. Since the watershed moment in December 2012 when a girl was gang-raped on a bus in Delhi, citizens have been buoyed by the confidence that the world is now watching and waiting for action.
There have been an increase in the reports of rape, sexual assaults and murders over the past few years, and the Indian government and local authorities have been forced to make the safety of women a priority. Approximately 2,069 rapes were registered with police in Delhi in 2014 against 1,571 the previous year, an increase of 31.6 percent.
Police chiefs in Delhi have formed an all-female squad specially trained in the martial arts in order to better defend themselves against potential attackers while on the job. The patriarchal mindset is very prevalent in India and it is going to take a shift in culture alongside key legislative initiatives to tackle the gender inequality.
Being branded the “rape capital” of India was not something the police force in Delhi wanted to accept so they hope this squad will send a loud and clear message to society.
“We won’t tolerate any bad behaviour,” leader Bharti Wadhwa told AFP.
“It can start from a simple cat call which then leads to stalking and then rape. We will nip such antics in the bud,” she said.
“After some more training, the karate unit will be deployed in plain clothes near metro stations and outside schools and colleges, spots which are most vulnerable,” police deputy commissioner Varsha Sharma told AFP.
“Young girls and women must feel assured that these guardian angels are there to take care of them at all times.”
The group has been nicknamed “Charlie’s Angels” and is being trained in Japanese Shotokan-style karate.
“I feel a great sense of responsibility while training these cops. I feel like a warrior on a mission,” said black-belt trainer Vishal Jaiswal. “My mission is to make them like Charlie’s Angels, fearless and fearsome.”
Fearsome they may be, but they are also only a group of 40 women at this stage, in a city with a population of 16 million. Activist organizations praise the initiative but say it needs to be much bigger in order to make an impact.
“They must extend this training to enroll more police women,” Mriganka Dadwal, executive director of non-profit group SLAP (Street-level Awareness Program), told AFP.
“The message should go out loud and clear to sex offenders that they are constantly being watched wherever they may be.”
Watching is certainly the key, and with technology enabling stories of harassment and sexual assault in India to go viral, there is a renewed sense of empowerment when we see women standing up for themselves.
There was collective disappointment when we read about the alleged rape of a 25 year old woman in an Uber car in Delhi. It caused people to bring into question safety standards in Uber in general, and in Indian public transport. India’s all-female cab company is only one solution to this, but it is only one piece in the puzzle.
Not too long ago an Indian woman uploaded a video to Youtube which went viral, detailing how an Indian man sitting behind her on a, IndiGo flight was touching and groping her through her seat without her consent, and when the flight landed she launched into a tirade about how inappropriate it was. She was praised by the media for standing up to the man who thought asking for forgiveness was easy enough after his actions.
“You decide the action, I decide the reaction!” she said loud and clear in the video after he repeatedly asked her to stop speaking so loudly, which she ignored. She made damn sure the whole plane, and subsequently people in the airport after they disembarked knew what was going on as she continued to follow and berate him to get the message home.
In December 2014 this video of two sisters from Haryana nicknamed the “Rohtak Bravehearts” can be seen fighting a man on a bus who was allegedly harassing them. While there has been much criticism given there was no video evidence of the man harassing them in the first place (it seems it’s so commonplace in India that people aren’t generally at the ready to film it)
And another favorite, this viral video from mid-2014 showing an Indian female jogger chasing a man down the street shouting “How dare you!” at him after he was sexually harassing her.
Business Insider says this trend of women using smartphones and the internet to name and shame harassers has become an empowering way for women to hit back at something they have had to tolerate in silence for so long.
“A video is a weapon that scares patriarchy. The proof, like in the IndiGo case, is mostly undeniable,” wrote Piyasree Dasgupta, on leading news website.
“It leaves the woman with more power than usual to fight for her own cause with little need of either empathy or logistical help from a man. It pins a man down for his crimes with little scope of escape.”
While these videos are a helpful reminder of what is still going on and certainly an important part of Indian women having the confidence to stand up to attackers when they see other women doing it, it is initiatives like the Delhi police have created which will also change the way women are viewed in society. It has to come from every level in order for the sexist culture to be changed.
‘Charlie’s Angels’ may be more commonly known as a hit TV series from the 1970s and a movie starring Cameron Diaz, but for women in India, they are going to become a source of real hope and strength in everyday life.