Women in India Are Turning into "Charlie's Angels" to Fight Sexual Assault

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A New Delhi police force has a refreshing new tactic to combat sexual assault: a specially trained squad of karate-chopping policewomen, who hope to bring justice to the so-called "rape capital" of India. Their trainers call them "Charlie's Angels," and they're dedicated to cleaning up the capital's streets.

The Angels: Led by policewoman Bharti Wadhwa and supported by Delhi police Chief Bhim Sain Bassi — who has been vocal about his commitment to Indian women's safety for years — this special unit of 40 women has been training in martial arts techniques for months. The squad's goal is to infiltrate especially "vulnerable" landmarks in the city, such as schools and metro stations, while undercover as regular citizens. They will then unveil their skills should they encounter acts of violence.

"We won't tolerate any bad behavior," Wadhwa told the Associated Foreign Press. "It can start from a simple catcall, which then leads to stalking and then rape. We will nip such antics in the bud."

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"Young girls and women must feel assured that these guardian angels are there to take care of them at all times," police deputy commissioner Varsha Sharma told AFP.

This latest initiative joins previous efforts, such as female-centric self-defense classes, to combat the high rates of sexual violence in both Delhi and India at large.

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The background: In 2014, a rape was committed every 22 minutes in India, according to Indian government statistics. The Times of India reported that nearly 25% of Indian men admitted to committing an act of sexual violence, according to a 2011 poll. Such rampant violence is a problem with which the world has become familiar in recent years, as the Western media has reported on several high-profile gang rapes — including the harrowing 2012 Delhi bus gang rape, and the more recent case of teen sisters being allegedly gang raped by policemen in 2014.

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India is not alone: The problem of pervasive sexual assault is not unique to India. As Sally Kohn wrote in More magazine, India may rank third for the number of rapes reported each year, but the U.S. ranks first. An American woman is raped every 6.6 minutes as of 2013. And, as Rebecca Solnit noted in a 2013 article for the Nation, the Indian gang rapes that seem to horrify the Western world are not so different from those that occur in our own backyards — like in Texas, California, New Orleans, Chicago and beyond.

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Of course, there is no simple way to combat sexual assault, and even a tactic as badass as undercover policewomen skilled in the art of karate is hardly a solution to this global problem. In order to truly eradicate sexual assault, perpetrators must stop assaulting. The U.S. has notably attempted to acknowledge this fact through the "It's on Us" campaign, which asks everyone (but especially men) to commit to eradicating sexual assault.

Though India's "Charlie's Angels" may fail to fully address the root causes of assault, there is much to be admired about an attempted solution that upholds empowering women as its core value. Considering the intensity with which survivors of sexual assault are shamed, blamed and discredited, any effort that acknowledges women's agency in addressing the issue should be commended.

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A unit of crime-fighting, butt-kicking policewomen may not be the ultimate solution to stopping sexual assault, but it certainly is an encouraging step in the right direction. The world would do well to look upon Delhi's non-paternalistic tactic as a model going forward. Not only must we stop victim-blaming: We must look to women as powerful agents of change. 

Correction: March 5, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated how often women in the United States are raped. Based on 2013 statistics provided by the FBI, a woman was raped every 6.6 minutes, not every 6.2 minutes.

h/t Business Insider