By Darlynn Amara
It is not an uncommon phenomenon — sexual harassment has made its place into every nook and cranny of the globe. Being groped, gawked at, gestured to and much, much worse is the reality that many women deal with on a daily basis.
But a group of intelligent, young, fearless women in Lucknow, have recently been in the media limelight for stepping up and taking charge of their own safety and security.
After centuries of putting up with more than just shoddy treatment, these women of courage have started to come out onto the streets to make their voices heard by banding together.
The Red Brigade, which came into existence in November 2010, is a self-defense group of young women in the Madiyav slum of the northern Indian city and has been dishing out their own version of justice to predators that surround them.
Like most symbols, colours have always carried within them an inherent power and the women of the Red Brigade have chosen to adorn themselves in red to signify ‘danger’ and black which stands for ‘protest’.
Men in this little slum area have suddenly found themselves on the back foot, aware that any careless remark or attempt to force unwanted attention on the young women in the vicinity comes with the very real risk of a thrashing from the Red Brigade. The boot is on the other foot now, and that foot is aimed somewhere sensitive.
Usha Vishwakarma, a 25-year old resident has set the group on its way. As a victim of sexual abuse herself, she decided to take action and with that set into motion, what they are hoping, will become a national movement. The Red Brigade has 15 core members and more than 100 others who work together to empower young girls and women to take back their power.
Upon reports of harassment or abuse, the Red Brigade doles out one warning, followed by one complaint to police authorities and if neglected, a final visit by some very angry women.
The rough justice the Red Brigade metes out, which involves a mighty thrashing, might seem extreme to those with delicate sensibilities, but the young women seem to have had enough.
In order to even the playing field somewhat, the group engages in self-defense classes, where they get trained instructors to teach them a series of kicks, punches and throws.
In Usha’s opinion, this helps them to fight back should the need to defend themselves arise. It also takes away some of the physical advantage men have had over women for the longest time.
While many look at the Red Brigade in sheer pride and respect, others have been more critical. Vigilante groups, no matter how noble, are not considered part of mainstream society and the women have been facing their own obstacles in terms of opposition.
However, the silenced voices of women have forced them to take matters into their own hands and the Red Brigade has been able to provide a security fence to a group of girls who had previously been living in fear and who were forced to grow up way to fast.
After the rise of the Red Brigade, the men around the market place have begun to move aside like a pack of wolves suddenly noticing that the sheep have armed themselves.
Perhaps, now is as good a time as any to consider a few self-defense classes yourself. With preparation comes confidence, with confidence, courage. And with courage, even in the slightest of measures, as the Red Brigade has shown, comes power.