News / Asia

India’s Red Brigade Hits Back at Attackers of Women

India’s Red Brigade Hits Back at Attackers of Womeni
X
December 13, 2013 9:51 PM
In northern India, a group of young women are taking the fight against sexual harassment and assault into their own hands. Their mission - to confront the men who attack women - is receiving renewed attention following the brutal gang rape and murder of a young woman in the Indian capital a year ago. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more on the "Red Brigade" from Lucknow.
Aru Pande
— In a dusty neighborhood in the northern Indian city of Lucknow, Usha Vishwakarma readies her army of young women for battle.

Standing on her doorstep, she leads the teenagers in martial art drills. The 25-year-old said while she and other women cannot change the mindset of potential attackers, they can work to protect themselves.

“We need to think that we should become so capable that if someone tries to attack us, then we respond in equal measure,” said Vishwakarma. “We want to make girls so mentally and physically strong that they can face any situation.”

Vishwakarma said her Red Brigade was born out of necessity in 2010 when she felt abandoned and traumatized after an attempted rape by a colleague.

She said police were unresponsive, and the man who tried to rape her spent the following months mocking her for reporting the attack. She said the incident, coupled with the rape of an 11-year-old girl she tutored, was the breaking point.

Group colors

Her group of what has grown now to 200 young women, many victims themselves, patrol the streets of Lucknow in the traditional “salwar kameez” - red symbolizing danger, black for protest - ready to confront and humiliate men who tease, touch and commit other acts of sexual harassment and assault.

Afreen Khan, 17, said she helped start the Red Brigade after her father threatened to take her out of school because of the near daily harassment she experienced while heading to class.

“Before we used to hear so many lewd comments, now there is hardly any teasing,” Khan said. “There are a lot of people with us, supporting us and that makes us feel more proud that we are doing this type of work.”

The Red Brigade’s work took on special resonance after a 23-year-old student was gang-raped and beaten aboard a private bus in New Delhi in December of 2012. She died weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

Thousands took to the streets all over India to protest the brutal attack, but a year later - not much seems to have changed.

Attacks escalating

The number of reported rapes in the Indian capital this year has nearly doubled compared to last year.

Vishwakarma said attacks outside the capital rarely make headlines or stir such public outrage. She said that life, particularly in the conservative state of Uttar Pradesh, can be bleak for a woman who is discouraged from speaking up or standing up for herself, whether it be by her parents or her husband.

“A woman is not considered a human being, but something that is to be used,” she said.

It has not been an easy road for Vishwakarma and her Red Brigade. At first, she said even her family was opposed to her efforts for fear of what neighbors would say about the young women stepping out of their homes and raising their voices.

Even on this day, the Red Brigade members were cautious as not to conduct their martial art drills in public view.

Still, Vishwakarma has not been deterred by societal norms. She is steadfast in ensuring girls and women gain the confidence they need to protect themselves. The Red Brigade has drawn worldwide media attention and her mother who was once apprehensive says she is proud of Vishwakarma and her three other daughters.

“I want the girls to get ahead, do good work. I want them to have a different life than what I had,” said Singhari Devi as she watched her daughters don their red-and-black uniform.

Vishwakarma also has high hopes of seeing a Red Brigade in each Indian city in the next year.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid