The government’s latest step to combat sexual violence completely misses the target
Following a year of protests decrying the deplorable state of sexual violence in India, the issue is slowly gaining more visibility. The Indian government has acknowledged it needs to take more aggressive measures to protect women and prosecute aggressors. Yet the government’s latest tactic to reduce sexual violence—selling guns tailor-made for women—does little to improve their safety.
A state-issued firearm—called Nirbheek, a tribute to “Nirbhaya,” the pseudonym given to the Indian woman gang raped and murdered aboard a bus last year—went on the market in early January, and is made to appeal to female customers as a weapon of defense. The gun comes in a decorated jewelry case, Abdul Hameed, general manager of the gun manufacturer, told the BBC. “Indian women like their ornaments," he said.
But priced at 122,360 rupees (roughly $1,900), it’s unclear just how female-friendly the gun is. Only 10 have been sold so far.
Indian women have already taken steps to protect themselves. Not relying solely on the new safety measures implemented by the government, including more police forces, women have sought out self-defense lessons and purchased pepper spray.
Then there’s the question of whether more guns actually make things any safer for women. Research shows that a person is 12 times more likely to be shot and killed if they are carrying a gun when attacked, according to India’s Women Gun Survivors Network. In fact, it is illegal in India to carry weapons in several public places—including malls and offices—meaning women with guns wouldn't legally be able to protect themselves (or could potentially put themselves in more danger).
Perhaps the most faulty logic of "guns for women" is that it falls into the same pattern of asking women to better defend themselves instead of addressing and reversing cultural norms that perpetuate India’s high incidences of sexual violence. Teaching men not too rape sounds like a much more sustainable campaign to combat sexual assault than arming their potential victims.