Pink guns to stop the rapists? Don't make me laugh

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Pink guns to stop the rapists? Don’t make me laugh

by Mari Marcel Thekaekara


Silent protests after the gang rape in India in 2012. Is it right to remember the women who died with a gun? (Ramesh Lalwani under a Creative Commons Licence)

It’s true. India is offering women a gun to defend themselves. A pretty pink handgun. It’s name is ‘Nirbheek’ – this means ‘fearless’ in Hindi – and it is to remember the 23-year-old student attacked in India’s capital in 2012.

But the gun will cost 122,360 rupees (US $2,228). This is far more than most poor women earn in a whole year. This means about 90 per cent of Indian women could never have enough money to buy one, even if they really wanted it.

Most Indian families do not like guns. Gangsters have guns, and they often kill each other in our larger cities. Private security guards have guns to protect the rich and famous, in cities and rural areas. Normal people wouldn’t even think of buying a gun. The Nirbheek is a light 0.32 revolver. Most women’s groups think it’s a bad joke.

Kamla Bhasin started the women’s rights group Sangat, and is in the One Billion Rising South Asia movement. She writes: ‘We need to speak against it everywhere before this becomes a violent way to fight violence.’

But middle-class India loves buying new things. Maybe they will love the advertising for the ‘pink gun’. We learn fast; our films and music copy Hollywood, adding some Indian spice to get the attention of different parts of society. In a BBC interview with the General Manager of the Indian Ordinance Factory (where they make the pink gun, modelled on US guns), he says the Indian advertising is even better. ‘Indian women like jewellery,’ they say. So they sell the Indian gun in a dark red jewellery box.

Indian feminists ask more useful questions. Will guns protect women when family members or friends rape them? More and more Indian girls are sold into the sex trade, often by family and people they know. People look for girls in schools and colleges, in religious institutions, in places where no woman should need protection.

One big problem is that poor women have always been raped by rich men, who have no punishment for this. The middle class and rich Indians do not talk about this. Like in Victorian England, men often rape domestic workers from villages, forced to live and help in rich houses. Not many had the courage to protest then or now.

The other problem that no-one talks about is the rape and sexual violence against dalit and adivasi women. This is often to ‘teach the community’ a lesson. In central India, men in uniform rape adivasi women because they say the adivasi men are ‘Maoist terrorists’. And then the real Maoist terrorists rape the adivasi women because they were with the men in uniform. Working policemen rape women in police stations. In the north east there have been protests against sexual molestation and rape for decades. Not many of these ‘official’ rapists are ever prosecuted.

This is why feminists and most people who think in Indian society are very angry about the idea that this pink gun is a solution for the problems in our society.

We really need to seriously fight violence against women. But with pink guns? That’s so ridiculous, it makes most Indian women feel sick.

And today, as I write, it is the anniversary of the death of Gandhi. The most important person in the world to argue for non-violence.

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