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Voices of Indian Women

Mansi Thapliyal is a female Indian photographer working for Reuters. Since the death of a medical student after being gang raped on a bus in New Delhi the issue of women's security has been under the spotlight as never before in India. Mansi interviewed a variety of women in New Delhi to find out how they feel about their safety since the rape. Reactions were strong and wide ranging, from women who now feel the need to arm themselves or take self-defence classes, to others who are scared to go out alone at night. All of them felt an increased fear or need to protect themselves from potential violence by men.

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A woman waits at a bus stop in New Delhi recently. Since a medical student died after being gang raped on a bus in New Delhi, the issue of women's security in India has been under the spotlight.


Simrat, 24, who works for a non-profit arts organisation, travels in a rickshaw in Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi. "I made the decision to use public transport as my primary way of moving through the city because I really believe that it is my right to be able to use public space, just as much as it is of any man's".


Simrat, 24, travels in the women's compartment of a metro in New Delhi. "Not using the metro or an auto or a bus or a cycle rickshaw (because it might not be a safe thing to do) is not an option in my mind because if I stop myself from living my life in ways that are most convenient to me, I'm giving into fear and ceding my independence. I use the metro because it"s the most convenient travel option for me and I will continue to do so".


Chandani, 22, who works as a cab driver for a social enterprise which claims to provide safe and secure cab services for women driven by women, sits inside her car on a street in New Delhi. Chandani said demand for their cabs has increased after a 23-year-old medical student was gang raped in New Delhi. "I am doing a very unconventional job for women. Given that I do night shifts, I carry pepper spray bottle and I'm trained in self-defence. Initially I faced a lot of problems but driving cabs at night has helped me to overcome my fears", said Chandani who has been working as a cab driver for the last four years.


Ishita Matharu, 23, who works for a multinational company, poses for a picture in New Delhi. "I am not scared to travel alone by myself at night. After learning Krav Maga I am more confident to step out of my house late in the evening, I am no more frightened to drive alone or go out with friends."


Ishita Matharu, 23, who works for a multinational company, poses for a picture in New Delhi. Ishita has been taking Krav Maga classes for more than four years.


Sheetal, 23, who works at a night call centre, poses for a photograph outside her office in New Delhi. Sheetal has started carrying a small knife to protect herself. "Something which needs to be changed is not my working hours or my clothes but the mentality of the men in this city".


Baishali Chetia, 30, a freelance visual artist, travels on a bus after attending a Krav Maga class, an Israeli self defence technique, in New Delhi recently.


"Men can never understand the lack of freedom as we do. For a woman, to learn how to fight and defend herself from any kind of physical assault, to thrive to succeed in the field of martial arts, which is traditionally considered a male domain, is the best way to break away from the shackles of gender stereotypes which say that women can't protect themselves and therefore they shouldn't step out of their house late in the evening without being escorted by a male member of the family or a male friend" said Baishali Chetia, 30, a freelance visual artist, who has been taking Krav Maga classes for the last year.


Deepshikha Bharadwaj, 24, who works for an advertising agency, poses inside her office elevator holding a notice that reads 'sorry I am not staying late now' in her office in Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi. Deepshikha has posted the notice on her desk and said she wanted to send a message to her colleagues that she is not going to work late in the office anymore.


Sweety, 22, a student, poses for a picture in New Delhi. Sweety travels four hours every day from her village to the city to learn karate and taekwondo.


Sweety, 22, a student, takes a self defence class in New Delhi. "Boys in my village are scared to tease me after I beat up one boy who was passing lewd comments on me".


Shaswati Roy Chaoudhary, 23, who works for an online fashion company holds a bottle of pepper spray in a public park in New Delhi. Shaswati was given the pepper spray by a male friend for her self defence. "The recent spate of events that have come to light have left me all the more threatened and alarmed. To take the first step towards self defence I carry a pepper spray bottle. That apart, I can never relax on the roads once out of the house, almost always vigilant and looking out for trouble".


Nalini Bharatwaj, 37, chairman of a management institute, holds a gun while posing in her office in New Delhi. "Half of the time I am alone with my children and sometimes I have to travel late at night from work. It is enough to shut up anyone trying to molest me or even pass a comment if I flaunt my gun."

All photos Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters


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