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Indian students and activists participate in a protest against two recent rapes in New Delhi, India, April 12, 2018. Placard in Hindi reads, "Women have only one demand, the society should be violence free."
Altaf Qadri/AP
Girls & Women

Delhi Women Train in Self-Defense to Fight India's Rape Culture


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Impoverished women in India are especially vulnerable to sexual assault and the threat of rape, but self-defense programs empower them to fight back. You can join us by taking action on this issue and the rest of the Global Goals here.

Self-defense training classes are seeing a surge of interest among Delhi women in response to the constant threat of sexual assault and rape culture in India, reports CNN.

The Delhi Police Department has been conducting self-defense classes across the city since 2002, but the two-week sessions have seen a spike in demand in recent years, following the 2012 gang-rape of college student Jyoti Singh, according to the report.

Take Action: Tell World Leaders to Redouble Their Efforts By Amending Laws to Prevent Sexual Violence

"I decided that whatever life I have left, I want to live it well and teach my kids the same," 28-year-old Aisha Ahmad, a seamstress for Goonj, which organizes the classes with local law enforcement, told CNN in an interview.

Instructors play through multiple scenarios that women might face in the city. They then share how to respond with effective shouting, as well as teach the female students maneuvers to throw force-filled punches and the best way to break someone's arm.

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Despite making up 48% of the nation’s population, women in India have combated the risk of sexual violence for decades. In 2016, more than 58,000 rapes were reported across the country, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. In Delhi alone, nearly 4,000 sexual harassment cases were reported that same year.

"It is not about one case. It is happening everywhere. No one gives any respect to women," Ahmad told CNN.

Meanwhile, instructors at a separate self-defense training class at Jamia Islamia school in Delhi fear that the sessions place too much pressure on young girls to protect themselves, rather than educate male students of the same age against engaging in harassment.

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"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," said Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre of Social Research, a non-governmental organization focused on gender equality in India, told CNN.

Still, the police instructors acknowledge that there have been some success stories along the way, as when three former students shared how they responded when two boys began catcalling them on the street.

"The three girls together beat up the two boys, who finally had to run away," the officer told CNN.

If you have experienced sexual abuse, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) in the US, or access 24-7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org. You can find international resources here.