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More Delhi women turning to martial arts

A student going through a martial arts routine at a self-defence class in Delhi.

A student going through a martial arts routine at a self-defence class in Delhi.

NEW DELHI — Women in India’s capital are taking self-defence classes, snapping up pepper sprays, booking cabs with female drivers or leaving work early, all signs of growing insecurity following the brutal gang rape and murder of a student last month.

The assault on the 23-year-old – who was raped by six people and tortured with an iron bar on a bus, then left bleeding on a highway – stunned the nation and generated an unprecedented wave of protests calling for better security for women.

In response to the public outrage, authorities have initiated several measures to instil confidence, but many women say they cannot rely on India’s often gender-insensitive and under-resourced police force to ensure their security.

“It’s no secret that Delhi is unsafe for women. A lot of us have known it for a long time, but this case has brought things to light,” said Sunanda Jalote, 18, a psychology student, attending her first self-defense class with Invictus Survival Sciences in South Delhi.

“It really has hit the confidence of women in the city. We don’t want to feel like that. We want to be able to go out wherever we want, at any time of day or night, and feel safe. So you have to learn how to defend yourself.”

New Delhi, with a burgeoning population of 16 million, has the unsavoury reputation of being the country’s “rape capital”, recording more rapes annually than any other Indian city.

There were 706 rapes reported in 2012, a 23 per cent rise from the previous year, according to the Delhi police, while molestation cases rose by 11 per cent to 727. (Reuters)

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