The newly-elected state government of the Indian capital Delhi hopes an all-female volunteer commando unit can form the front line of defense against sexual violence in the country's capital.
Members of the unit will be trained by martial arts and military experts, and conduct night patrols in different areas of Delhi, according to The Times of India. The new voluntary unit is the brainchild of 26-year-old Rakhi Birla, Delhi’s new Women and Child Welfare Minister and the youngest member of the state’s government.
India's national government approved a rash of measures to protect women from sexual violence in the wake of the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old girl on a Delhi bus, an incident that left the nation in shock.
Many Indians are unsatisfied with the measures, however, accusing both police and the administration of not acting decisively against sexual violence. According to The Telegraph, government figures indicate that the number of sexual assaults reported to the authorities in the ten months following the fatal bus gang rape increased more than three fold. Massive protests erupted again only last week, after reports surfaced that a young woman was killed in West Bengal several weeks after she unsuccessfully sought the arrest of men she accused of gang rape.
Rakhi Birla, Delhi's Women and Child Welfare Minister, is eager to show her determination to tackle the issue of women’s safety. "There are lots of flaws in our system. Many corrective measures need to be taken to make public transportation at night safe for women," she said, according to the Times of India.
Skeptics of Birla's new force say they wish Delhi would focus on increasing female police recruits rather than establishing voluntary patrols. “The Delhi Police won't care about the commando force,” Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research commented to The Telegraph.
India is not unfamiliar with all-female police units. The country has brought all-women commando units into state police before, including in Assam and Rajasthan last year, and last week the state of Ramesh announced it would open all-female police stations. However, hiring new female recruits is out of Birla's government's hands, as Delhi's police is controlled by the national government.