A gun designed for Indian women

Indian hand gun

India has launched a new handgun for women, named after a student who was gang-raped in Delhi in December 2012 and later died of her injuries. Officials say it will help women defend themselves, but critics say it's an insult to the victim's memory.
In his large office on Kanpur's Kalpi Road, Abdul Hameed, the general manager of the state-run Indian Ordnance Factory, shows me Nirbheek, the factory's tiniest gun.
"It's small, it's lightweight, it weighs only 500g [1.1lb], and it can easily fit into a lady's purse."
Hameed speaks enthusiastically about the .32-calibre revolver, praising the "special titanium alloy body, the pleasing-to-the-eye wooden handle".
"The six-shot gun is easy to handle and it can hit its target accurately up to 15m [50ft]," he explains, pointing out the word "Nirbheek" engraved on the barrel.
It is definitely a good idea - if you have a licensed weapon, it increases your self-confidence”
Although men can buy the gun too, Nirbheek is being pitched as India's "first gun for women" and to make it more attractive to them, it comes packaged in a deep maroon jewellery case.
"Indian women like their ornaments," Hameed says.
Nirbheek is a synonym of Nirbhaya - the nickname given by the Indian press to the Delhi rape victim, who could not be named under Indian laws. Both words mean fearless in Hindi.
"We generally ask our employees to suggest names for new products. We received a lot of suggestions and decided on 'Nirbheek'. We believe that women who carry this gun will feel fearless," Hameed says.

Indianwoman with gun
Women's rights activist Anita Dua (left) bought a gun about eight years ago but has never used it

Although work to develop a lighter gun for women began before the Delhi rape, the project was fast-tracked after the crime, which sparked protests nationwide. The 23-year-old was raped, tortured with an iron bar and thrown from a moving bus.
Hameed says Nirbheek will deter attackers, because of the "surprise element". The factory began taking orders on 5 January and despite a steep price tag of 122,360 rupees ($1,990; £1,213), Hameed says the response has been good, with 10 guns sold and many more enquiries.
The gun's launch has led Indians to debate whether carrying a gun makes a woman safer. Ram Krishna Chaturvedi, the chief of police for Kanpur and several nearby districts, thinks it does.
"It is definitely a good idea. If you have a licensed weapon, it increases your self-confidence and creates fear in the minds of criminals," she says.
Among those wanting to buy Nirbheek is Pratibha Gupta, a housewife and student in Kanpur. She says it is "too expensive" and the process of acquiring a licence is "cumbersome", but she believes that it will be empowering.
"If the person in front of me knows that I have a gun, he will hesitate to touch me, he will know that since she has a gun, she can use it too. The gun will be my supporter, my friend and my strength."

Geeta Pandey, 17/01/2014