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Train rape push to self-defence class

Mumbai, Sept. 3: A self-defence course started by a university has come as a boon to women here at a time when the city is still outraged over the rape of a young girl in a local train.

After the horrifying incident three weeks ago — the girl was raped in the presence of five fellow passengers and no one protested — many women still feel anxious travelling in trains in a city where local trains are a lifeline. So, “Swayamsiddha”, the self-defence course, which also dwells on what a woman should do in case she finds herself in a similar situation in a train, has evoked immediate response.

The first batch of 20 students has started taking the free one-month course, launched last week by SNDT Women’s University and sponsored by the state government’s sports directorate.

“We had thought of the course before the incident of the rape. But since we launched it at a time when the city is still preoccupied with the incident, we had a huge response,” says the university’s physical education assistant director, Linda Dennis, who was involved in evolving the course.

“All in the current batch are students of the university,” says Dennis. “But because the response was so overwhelming, we have decided to throw open the course to outsiders in three months’ time. We are also thinking of formulating other courses for women: one for housewives, another for working women,” she adds, even as the phone rings with another query.

“Women know that no one will help them. That’s why they need self-defence.”

The university has invited a special guest speaker: Jayabala Asher. The young woman lost her legs three years ago when she was thrown out of a train compartment by her molester.

Asher, then a college student, had protested, but no one had helped her. The man had then thrown her out on the tracks on which a train was coming from the opposite direction.

Asher lost both her legs.

The course, held every afternoon for one hour from Monday to Saturday at an SNDT campus, will teach defence skills from judo and taekwondo, like “blocks, punching, kicking, holds and break falls”. These techniques can be applied to free oneself if held by the hair, or under knife attack or to “resist hand attack”, or even to stop purse snatching, says the university.

“We also teach the women how to use whatever we have at hand, our bags and hankies, as weapons,” says Dennis.

“We will also teach them how to talk to the assaulter, either to threaten him or calm him, depending on the situation,” she adds. “The idea is to make a woman get over the fear inside and hit out.”

As part of the course, the women will also be taken to a police station and shown how to launch an FIR “so that they overcome the mental block of going to the police”.

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