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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid