A gun that was allegedly made to “empower” women against sexual violence in India has outraged gun control advocates and feminist groups.
The small-caliber revolver, manufactured by state-run Indian Ordnance Factory (IOF), was named the Nirbheek – the Hindi word for “fearless.” The moniker was inspired by Nirbhaya, the 2012 Delhi gang-rape victim, according to IOF general manager Abdul Hamied.
“It can serve as a deterrence,” Hamied told CNN. “There’s something you can do to prevent these attacks. You can also enthuse confidence among women.”
Although Hamied stated that 80 percent of the gun’s current orders were placed by women, Binalakshmi Nepram expressed more anger than enthusiasm over the firearm.
“It really is an insult to the memory of Nirbhaya,” Nepram, who founded the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, told AFP. “Our research shows that a person is 12 times more likely to be shot dead if they are carrying a gun when attacked.”
He added, “It also shows that the government of India has failed to protect women by resorting to this. Arming women is not a responsible way to secure their safety and security.”
The .32-caliber revolver, which is cast from titanium alloy, weighs only 500 grams. IOF says that it is the smallest six-shooter in India, making it an “ideal fit for a purse or small bag.” Arms experts describe the Nirbheek as a Webley & Scott crossed with a Smith & Wesson due to its combination of a simple firing mechanism and a lightweight frame.
In a bid to add feminine appeal to the Nirbheek, IOF will ship it in special boxes that are lined with velvet.
The weapon’s price tag is a reflection of its premium build and presentation. At nearly $2,000, the Nirbheek costs more than the average Indian’s annual salary.
Despite a spike in gun permit applications by women in the wake of the Delhi gang-rape, such licenses remain very difficult to obtain.
“Gun licenses are given rarely – only to those with money and clout, and that means overwhelmingly men,” said Ruchira Gupta, the founder of women’s rights group Apne Aap Women Worldwide. “Poor women in India are unlikely to have the means or the access to own a gun.”
Last October, Uttar Pradesh’s Allahabad High Court placed a blanket ban on new firearm permits, citing fears over increased gun violence.
“Arming the society to such an extent rings the danger bell,” the court said in a statement. “In fact, the state is sitting on a volcano.”
Hamied expects a jump in Nirbheek sales once the ban is lifted. He said that a factory in Kanpur – the largest industrial city in Uttar Pradesh – had received between 50 and 60 inquires since unveiling the revolver on January 6.