This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sumedha Bharpilania. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why Should I Carry Pepper Sprays? Is Being Woman A Crime?

More from Sumedha Bharpilania

By Sumedha Bharpilania:

“Now listen to me very carefully. Here’s a can of pepper spray and you will make sure that you carry it with yourself wherever you go. Put it in your bag and do not ask me questions. Oh and here’s a Swiss knife that you should keep. Stop making faces as this is for your safety. We are not paranoid parents, just concerned.
These were my mother’s emphatic words when I arrived in the capital in the month of January. This paranoia, or so I would like to believe, was induced by the horrific gang rape that occurred in Delhi on the 16th of December, 2012. I felt like an armed solider as I carried these contraptions with me, thinking that the situation would become better and hoping that I would not need these things in the long run. Time has flown, everything is pretty much the same, but the hope lingers.

pepper spray

I have to admit that I detest calling myself a feminist, as for some reason or the other; it is a label I am not entirely proud of. The number of females (and males) who have started to brand themselves as feminists do so without realizing the enormity of the concept. But I cannot bring myself to deny the fact that I am somehow conditioned to think along the lines of a woman who would ideally be known as a staunch believer of feminism. And that probably is the reason why issues concerning the fairer sex get all my attention. Every time I type the word ‘women’ into Google, ‘women’s safety’ is one of the first things it decides to show me. Upon clicking on the aforementioned option, I am introduced to a plethora of websites which offer tips on how we could protect ourselves from the prying hands of a dangerous male. Of late, during my online shopping sprees, I often end up discovering the several pepper sprays available in the market, most of which promise to be strong enough to knock out an attacker. I would then primarily like to question why these cans are mostly pink in colour when the act associated with them is supremely violent. But then that is a different story altogether.

The feasibility of these safety devices has baffled me time and again. And then there is also this inherent fear in the minds of most women- “Will I be able to procure the pepper spray which lies deep inside some corner of my bag, just in time to blind my attacker? Will the hair-clip cum knife prove to be useful or will it end up harming me instead?” What appals me is the fact that we live in a society where instead of combating the problem of rape, the rape culture to be specific, we advocate means by virtue of which women can keep themselves secure.

No, I do not want to carry pepper sprays and pocket knives to protect myself when I walk on the streets of the capital or any city for that matter. I want men to understand that I have committed no crime by being a woman. I want them to understand that I am a free citizen with certain rights, just like them, and they therefore are not supposed to harm me. I have done nothing wrong. I am not living in a forest inhabited by wild animals, so why do I need weapons to keep myself safe?

Source: The Telegraph – Calcutta

I believe that the problem lies in the fact that women have been perceived as weak and subordinate since time immemorial. Rape is all about asserting power more than anything else. Rape, more often than not is all about blaming the victim and making ridiculous statements such as “Well, she asked for it.”

We have countless debates on equality of genders, so why don’t we come up with a tit for tat-like solution? If skirts cause rape, we should probably ask men to stop wearing boxers, shorts and vests as we shall then have every reason in the world to rape them. I would then suggest that men also carry these weapons with them all the time. What if women are overpowered by their lust one fine day and decide to rape them? Males should also make sure they are protected. And if you are doubtful of the physical power that females possess, you probably have never heard of Wonder Woman and her embodiments in our society.

It all zeroes down to one question: Why should we ask girls to protect themselves and not ask men to stop raping girls? But then, I believe we have a long way to go before we see the day when people finally understand this simple concept. Sigh, I should probably brace myself with my stun gun now, as the naysayers are coming.

Photo Credit

You must be to comment.
  1. Prashant Kaushik

    Your Article is pretty ridiculous and out of touch of realism. If to sound fancy and show off your linguistic skills were your purpose, you have succeeded beyond doubt. But sorry to say I pity that you take such sensitive topics to practice and display your writing skills.
    Having said that, I know you will instantly create a so called male chauvinist image of me and declare me product of patriarchal set up of your society, which I believe is never the case.

    Firstly, there is nothing wrong with your parents suggesting you pepper spray or swiss knife. If you suggest you should nt carry them because your don’t have any feelings to harm anyone, than what next, would your suggest that I throw away the locks and other security system from my house just because I am honest and not a thief myself !!!!
    Taking precautions, by keeping spray, knife or learning fighting classes or by any other means is not an unwise step. But to ignore such efforts of securing your life is definitely very naïve.

    Now think, if I wear 1 kg of Gold on my head on a deserted street and some robber robs the gold, What would be the first thing you would say ? Anyone will say “ Were you a fool to carry 1 kg gold at night in deserted road “ ?
    So pls understand fighting for your rights is one thing and making yourself secure another. Don’t mix the two.

    Lastly, males and females have different bodies and they think differently. If they were exactly same and there was no difference between than things would have been be exactly as how you have envisaged i.e. Women would also be raping men in equal numbers. But it is not just in humans, but most of the animal species, that male tend to sexually dominate the female. I have never seen a cow roaming around and searching for a bull for mating. Its always the other way round. Of course I will also add that animals aren’t as absurd as some pervert men are, but that’s another thing.

  2. Raj

    Look, if you get around using LOGIC with CRAZY people and animals, tell me about it. If not, then stop victimizing yourself and take care.

More from Sumedha Bharpilania

Similar Posts

By Aditya Mittal

By Shrsti Tiwari

By asmita K

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below