Better safe than sorry

Published On: November 27, 2017 07:04 AM NPT By: Giri Bahadur Sunar

Self-defense training is not only about kicking and punching, which in 
any case do not work unless women are psychologically empowered

The UN Sustainable Development Goal number five (SDG 5) aims for gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls by the end date of 2030. It hopes to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls, everywhere, including violence against them in both public and private spheres. 

Compared to the past, even in Nepal, more and more women are getting out of their homes to learn and earn. This is remarkable but with this, cases of abuse of girls and women are also increasing. According to the UN, 1 in 3 women and girls experience some kind of violence in their lifetime. But there has been no substantive effort to reduce violence against girls and women in our country. As a result, every year hundreds of young girls and women are attacked: some mugged, some beaten, some raped and some even killed. 

According to INSEC, in 2016, multiple types of violence on women were reported: 2,201 cases of domestic violence, 34 cases of witchcraft, 222 cases of polygamy, 242 rapes, 94 attempted rates, 37 sexual abuse and 72 cases of women trafficking. And these are just reported cases. Almost all of them have one thing in common: These women did not know how to defend themselves against physically and psychological attacks. 

The feeling of insecurity in public place could prevent many girls and women from coming out of their homes. They know that should they face a problem no Lord Krishan will appear to rescue them, unlike in the Mahabharata when he came to protect the honor of Draupadi. It is thus the responsibility of the government to protect them. But is it possible for the government to be present everywhere, 24/7 and 365 days a year? No. That is why girls and women in Nepal need to prepare themselves by learning self-defense.

More than fancy kicks
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of self-defense? Unlike what you may think, self-defense is not all about kicking and punching with fancy filmy moves. First and foremost, defense entails avoiding confrontation without hurting anyone, unless absolutely necessary. So it is a good idea for everyone to be equipped with some kind of self-defense, and it is particularly important for girls and women, who are thought of as the ‘weaker sex’ in our paternalistic society and hence considered easy targets. 

As we have seen, most people do not react when they see a woman being harassed or violated in public. And as more and more of these cases are ignored, the abusers get bolder and bolder. That is why it is important for women to be versed in self-defense. 

For the past one decade, I have been giving self-defense training to girls and women. My Women Empowerment Self-Defense training is divided into two parts: the first part involves psychological learning and the second part involves physical learning. To assess the impact of my training, I collect self-defense feedback. Most (around 70 percent) participants report that they like the psychological self-defense part more than the physical self-defense part. They believe that the more they become aware of their surroundings, the better equipped they will be to avoid physical confrontation altogether. 

After the training, around 90 percent women report that they could fight back and protect themselves if someone tried to abuse them; the remaining 10 percent said they were partly confident of doing so. When asked about the need for such Women Empowerment Self-Defense Training, about 95 percent reported such training is needed to boost the confidence of girls and women. When I contacted the trainees from Ramechhap, Nepalgunj, Dharan, Damauli, Bharatpur and Kathmandu, around 90 percent reported that they now felt safer and stronger. 

They reported that their confidence level was very high compared to the past. In response to the question ‘Did you encounter with any kind of abuse and rape after leaning self-defense?’, around 60 percent reported they had not. About 30 percent reported they had encountered different kinds of physical and psychological abuse in public vehicles, in schools, collages, restaurants, public place and even at home from their own relatives. About 10 percent reported that they did not remember any such happening.

Silent victims 
In Nepal most cases of violence against women goes unrecorded. According to Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC) Nepal, 77 percent of the violence victims never seek help, while 64 percent never tell anyone. Although men too are subjected to violence of different sorts, women on average are more vulnerable in our society. 

Women make up more than half of the national population and it bears to reason that they be empowered to defend themselves. If they cannot, there could be severe consequences for women’s reproductive health and future life. Women empowerment is also crucial to achieving gender equality. It includes increasing a women’s self-worth, their decision making, their access to opportunities and resources, their power and their control over their own life, in and outside their home. 

Self-defense training for girls and women empowers them individually by providing them with technical skills so that they can protect themselves against unwanted attack, physical or psychological. Again, self-defense training is not only about physical training like kicking and punching. Kicking and punching does not work unless girls and women are psychologically empowered.

This is why we must understand self-defense training as being aimed at overall physical and psychological empowerment of girls and women. With training, our girls and women can be more flexible, faster and stronger. Those who practice self-defense also develop greater stamina, body balance, speed and overall physical and mental fitness. 

Girls and women are more than capable of competing against men in all spheres. But for that government and non-government organization including international agencies working in Nepal must pay attention to the issue of women’s self-defense. The goal is to create a society where every individual can walk without fear. 

The author is a sociologist and women empowerment self defense trainer

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