India’s female gun: Can it really protect women?

India can be a pretty tough place to live if you’re a woman.

India can be a pretty tough place to live if you’re a woman. Female infanticide is not uncommon, most women do not own the right to property and rape happens every 22 minutes according to the National Crime Record Bureau. Numerous articles and documentaries have made their way to the forefront of our media in the past year, aiming to bring to light the shocking plight of women in India with the hope of some sort of social change occurring as a result of the raised awareness.

It seems as though the endless protests and documentation have finally had some sort of effect as India produces its first gun made especially for women.

The Nirbheek, named after the 23 year-old victim of the infamous Delhi gang-rape case in December 2012, is a light-weight, 32 calibre revolver, and is being marketed as a possible solution to the widespread problems of rape and sexual harassment in the subcontinent. To make it even more appealing, the gun comes in a maroon jewellery case, showing parallels with the various girlie models currently available in the US such as the Chic Lady. Cute!

However, as with all things, the gun is not without its fair share of controversy. Phrases such as ‘victim blaming’ and ‘increased violence against women’ have been thrown around, not to mention outrage at the gun’s hefty price tag (costing around 1/3 of the average yearly income for India’s women).

It isn’t difficult to find articles condemning the gun; 30 seconds on Google and you will  see dozens of journalists criticising the gun for all the above and more besides. While I sympathise, I can’t help but disagree.

Changing little by little

Now first of all, let me make it clear that I absolutely do not condone victim blaming of any kind. It incenses me when people blame a woman’s clothing or state of intoxication for her assault, and I am of the firm belief that the only person responsible for rape is the rapist and that rather than teaching women not to be raped, we should be teaching men not to rape.

However, that is not to say that learning self-defence is unhelpful and unnecessary. Being able to protect oneself on the streets can only ever be a good thing, especially if the alternative is to stay inside or get raped. I do not see a woman carrying a gun as victim blaming in the slightest, just in the same way that a woman learning martial arts is victim blaming.

Arming yourself with the knowledge of how to keep safe and minimise risk is not victim blaming: it is smart thinking.

This brings me to my next point—I hate guns. As in, I really can’t stand them. I hate the US gun laws and I absolutely oppose violence. BUT, and this is a big but, I can’t help but feel as though it would be silly of me to criticise the Indian government in taking a step to protect its women.

Concerns still present

For the most part, the rape epidemic in India is a result of India’s attitudes towards women—attitudes engrained in India’s men from the day that they are born. It is hard for us here in the UK to even imagine what it is like for women growing up in India, and even more difficult to reconcile India’s views on women with our own. In a country that places so low a value on its females, to see the government even nod in the right direction is something that should be celebrated, for without a change in attitudes, life for women in India will never change.

Without doubt, this new feminine gun promotes a huge change in attitude towards women’s bodies and well-being, not to mention gives the women carrying the gun a chance to feel safe and empowered while walking the streets.

An increase in females carrying guns sends out two messages to male rapists:

1. The government cares about its women and therefore so should you

2. Women are not vulnerable little mice there for your sexual gratification but badasses who are more than capable of defending themselves should they so need

Little by little, attitudes in India are beginning to change. Perhaps if all women could protect themselves, and the government was on their side, than the men assaulting them would slowly wise up and realise that this isn’t acceptable any more, and that, shock, women are people too! Again, I’m not saying that guns are the most wonderful idea in the world, but if there is a tiny possibility that attitudes towards women in India could be improved as a result and that sexual violence against said women could thus decrease, then surely we should celebrate the Nirbheek.

You see, it’s all about location. I would never advocate carrying guns here in the UK, but India is a very different society to the one in which we live, and taking the plight of India’s women into consideration, the invention of the Nirbheek seems like it could actually do India’s citizens some good.

The bottom line? Guns are bad. Of course they are. However, please let us not be too harsh on a government trying to protect its women, even if we do not agree with the method that it chooses. Whatever your stance on gun possession, this change in attitude is progress, and we must be grateful of progress.

What do you think of the gun? What role do you think it has? Have your say in the comments section below.