A political party in India has sparked some major controversy by handing out bags of chilli powder and 21,000 kitchen knives to women, following the notorious gang rape on a bus in New Delhi last month.
The Irish Independent reports that the Shiv Sena political party (a radical ally of the main BJP opposition party) has confirmed that it handed out the knives to women living in New Delhi and surrounding areas and that it plans to distribute 100,000 so women can protect themselves against rapists.
Mumbai police said that they were currently in the process of examining the knives and considering legal action.
“This is a symbolic gesture,” said Rahul Narvekar, a spokesman for the Shiv Sena party.
He said that a knife shorted than six inches in length does not fit the definition of a weapon in India and this is why the party had given women knives that had a three-inch blade. He confirmed that women had also been given bags of chilli powder, which they could throw in the eyes of an attacker.
“It’s only to pass a signal to ‘Eve-teasers,’ anti-social elements and perpetrators of crime against women that women are empowered and they can take care of themselves,” said Narvekar.
Eve-teasing is a euphemism for molesting women that is used in India.
As well as knives the women were also given bags of chilli powder to throw at attackers
“Don’t be afraid of using this knife if someone attacks you,” said Ajay Chaudari, who is running the knife campaign.
“We have set up a team of nine advocates to protect you from any potential court cases that may arise,” he added.
The decision to give women knives to protect themselves comes after a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was brutally raped and beaten on a moving bus on December 16th before she was throw onto an expressway in New Delhi.
The attack and the student’s death from her severe injuries caused public outrage and anger at the failure of the government and the police to protect women in a country where one rape is reported approximately every 20 minutes.
Since the student’s death, more and more women are taking up self-defence classes and carrying pepper spray in an attempt to protect themselves.
This week a government commission was set up to recommend revisions to India’s sex crime laws. The commission has already said that women who kill an attacker during an attempted rape should be able to plead self-defence if they are brought up on charges in a court of law.