Chennai roads still unsafe for women

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While we celebrate the ‘independent woman’ who has no qualms taking up a night shift, enjoys partying the night away at a club and does not depend on anyone to drop her home, we have to ask, “Are the streets really safe for her?” DC reports.

Do you know of women returning home late night after work, who have been stopped by the police for questioning?

While most tend to accept such treatment without protest, what they don’t know is that if they have felt harassed, they have the right under the law to question police conduct in appropriate forums.

“In a society governed by the rule of law, the police are only a part of the system of governance and cannot assume their authority is supreme. Harassment of an individual on any account is strictly prohibited.

Even the use of threatening words by the police during their interrogation is an offence. So, when harassed, the affected person can take legal action against the officer concerned and claim compensation too.

He or she can also approach the human rights commission for relief,” says advocate A Sirajudeen, who has authored law books.

“People can commit illegalities even during the day. But only those people who step out late hours are scrutinised and embarrassed, by an insensitive police force.

Some corrupt policemen also harass people to make a quick buck. We need some sensitization of the policemen who are on patrol duty at night.

The aggrieved woman can lodge a complaint with the police if harassed this way and if they do not register it, she can even take the matter to the high court or local magistrate,” says Sudha Ramalingam, a well-known activist lawyer.

Experts also point out that under Article 19 (1) (d) of the Constitution, every citizen has a fundamental right to move freely throughout the country whether at night or day.

So, merely finding someone in public at odd hours is not enough reason for the police to harass him or her. Even a disreputable person has the right of free movement at all times, they say.

Trainer offers practical tips in self defence

With no help coming from the law enforcers, young working women have taken to self-defence lessons to steel themselves against attacks.

Karate and judo are now considered children’s sports activities. What these girls want are the gritty, no-frills techniques of traditional street fighting and mixed martial arts to help them get out of sticky situations unscathed.

Ajit Sigamani, founder and trainer at Combat Kinetics, derives self-defence techniques for his women clients from various sources — while the ancient Tamil combat sciences of Varmakalai and Adi Murai are his forte, Krav maga and Jujitsu are also taught at his academy.

“We teach women that the best way to stay safe is to avoid trouble — avoid walking around shady locales or deserted roads, and when you suspect you are being followed or watched — run to a safe public place as fast as possible.

Just because you can defend yourself, it is no reason to be a hero,” Ajit begins with a disclaimer.

In an ideal world, women should be able to safely wear what they want and walk around the streets at any time—but we live in a city that is not safe for women, he stresses.

In self-defence training, women are taught how to use the assailant’s strength against him, and get out of holds.

They are taught how to target the ‘weak spots’ of the attacker — the eyes, the throat and the groin amongst others.

They are also taught how to defend themselves when attacked in a car. “Due to conditioning from a young age, women think they cannot be aggressive,” laments Ajit.

“Another important lesson we teach our female clients repeatedly, is that they should not be embarrassed to shout. If someone attacks you, attract attention, do not be embarrassed,” he warns.

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