The Shiv Sena party has distributed knives and chili powder to women in Mumbai to send a message to ‘eve-teasers’ after the fatal gang rape of a student in Delhi last month, which has ignited a debate on India’s appalling rise in sexual offenses.
The Shiv Sena party, an ally of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has distributed 21,000 knives with 3-inch (7 cm) blades to women in Mumbai and its surrounding areas and plans to hand out a total of 100,000.
“This is a symbolic gesture. Its only to pass a signal to eve-teasers, anti-social elements and perpetrators of crime against women that women are empowered and can take care of themselves,” said Rahul Narvekar, a spokesman for the party. 'Eve teasing' is an Indian euphemism for molesting women.
“Don’t be afraid of using this knife if someone attacks you. We have set up a team of nine advocates to protect you from any potential court cases that may arise.” Ajay Chaudhari, who is running the knife campaign for Shiv Sena, was quoted as saying by the Party’s newspaper, Saamana.
The knives, at only three inches, are shorter than six inches and therefore do not fit the definition of a weapon.
However, Mumbai police said they were examining the knives and considering whether to pursue legal action.
Women were also given small bags of chili powder, apparently to throw into assailant’s eyes.
An attack on a woman on December 16th in New Delhi caused public outrage and brought the country’s shocking rise in sexual attacks on women to the forefront of national debate. A rape is reported in India on average every 20 minutes, but those that go unreported in the world’s second largest country are thought to be much higher.
The victim, a 23-year old physiotherapy student, was raped and beaten on a moving bus and was then thrown bleeding onto a busy road in New Delhi. She died two weeks later in a hospital in Singapore. New Delhi is known as India’s ‘rape capital’ whereas Mumbai is generally considered safer for women.
As well as sparking national debate on the issue, a government commission has been set up to look at India’s sex crimes laws and announced this week that if a woman kills an attacker during an attempted rape, she should be able to plead self-defense.
In addition to chili powder and knives, Indian women have been taking up self-defense classes and carrying pepper spray.