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Self-defence empowers Indian women
Following last year's rape and murder of a young woman in New Delhi, many Indian women are starting self-defence classes. Although the Indian Government has made changes to legislation to try to curb sexual assault in the city, many New Delhi women say the reforms have not gone far enough.
Stephanie March reports.

International Women's Day celebrates improvements in women's rights as well as serving as a reminder of battles still being fought. And in India this year it had special significance.

The horrific rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi shocked the world and drew attention to the deep deficiencies afflicting India's system of law and order.

And, as India correspondent Stephanie March reports, many of the city's women are taking matters into their own hands.
INSTRUCTOR: Ten strong strikes, come on. 10 strong strikes – Come on10, nine, ...

RADIKAH KASUTNA, SELF-DEFENSE STUDENT: Learning self-defence is very important for women here.


ISHITA MATHARV, SELF-DEFENCE STUDENT: I find it very useful in the sense that I can literally use all of this on the street and it helps to build your reflexes and to really know what all you can do with ordinary situations.

STEPHANIE MARCH, REPORTER: It's not easy being a woman in Delhi.

This self-defence school in the south Delhi suburb of Saket is less than a kilometre from the court where five men is on trial for the shocking gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in December.

Business here is booming. In the past two months there's been a massive spike in the number of women coming to the gym and asking about classes.

Tonight is Radikah's first time here.

RADIKAH KASUTNA: You can't go late at night, you can't – even in the day it's not safe. You can't – don't even trust the atuo drivers that are here. Nobody actually trusts them. Not even the public buses are safe here. So that's basically very unsafe all over.

STEPHANIE MARCH: Since the gang rape that shocked the nation, the government has increased the penalties for those found guilty of rape and sexual assault. But many women in Delhi feel the harsher penalties won't solve the problem and they're fed up waiting for men and the authorities to change.

ISHITA MATHARV: Obviously in terms of society, people should not be so offensive but how can you eliminate that? It's just - you have to take it up on your own.

SUMAN NALWA, ASSISTANT DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF POLICE: We have more and more women who are going out and they're out 24 hours and seven days a week, as a right to work, as a right to leisure. So now the security needs have changed.

STEPHANIE MARCH: Suman Nalway is the assistant deputy commission for crime against women Cell.

The common complaint is that police officers are dismissive of women who report sex crimes. The police have an image problem, and it's women like Suman Nalway who are trying to change.

SUMAN NALWA: It's society perception of police that police is not somebody who will respond and listen to them with empathy. So then we started this women helpline on 1091. When have a woman cop who responds to the emergency and women find it more easy to talk to another woman.

STEPHANIE MARCH: The focus in recent weeks in Delhi has been on the threat of sexual assault by strangers in public places. But the hardest place for women to stand up for themselves isn't on the street, it's in the home. Domestic violence is all too common.

Here, in the office of the special police unit for women and children, female police inspectors meet with women who've come to lodge complaints against their abusive husbands, fathers and brothers.

The odds are stacked against Indian women seeking help against violent partners or relatives, but still, some are brave enough to fight back.

One of them is Sivita.

SIVITA: I was beaten by my husband. I have gone through a lot of trauma, the physical trauma, the mental trauma. Now I'm here in this place with my daughter. So I don't want my daughter to go through the same phase. So I am now here to raise the voice against the crime which was happened to me and to get my rights.

STEPHANIE MARCH: She hopes telling her story to the police and now the media will encourage others like her to do the same.

There's no shortage of strong women in Delhi but there are many more who'd like to stands up for themselves but can't. It's a city dominated by men, but an increasing number of women, especially the young, believe it shouldn't be this way.

RADIKAH KASUTNA: I don't think it's the responsibility of women. If a woman wants she should be able to roam anywhere at any point of time. It's just the responsibility of the men and the thinking, the government and the thinking of the society, even some women. It's just always considered what the women should not go out , the women should not do this, why can't you go teach your sons what to do and what not to do?

(Footage of protest march about rape in New Delhi)

STEPHANIE MARCH: Many believe that while the gang rape of the young student was horrific, it may at least have increased awareness and could help change the way women are treated in this city.
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