India's 'handgun for women' sparks fury from activists

NEW DELHI (AFP) - A Indian handgun designed for women and named after the victim of a fatal gang-rape in Delhi was condemned by rights activists on Sunday as a disgrace to her memory.

The lightweight .32 calibre revolver was developed by the state-run Indian Ordnance Factory (IOF) and can fit inside a small purse or handbag, according to a newspaper report.

The factory in the northern city of Kanpur has received 20 orders since the titanium-alloy, six-shot gun - costing 122,360 rupees (S$2,500) - was launched earlier this month, the Times of India said on Friday.

"At least 80 per cent of the bookings are from women," IOF general manager Abdul Hameed told the newspaper, adding that more orders were expected soon.

"Expectedly, the weapon has received a very good response," he said.

The gun is called "Nirbheek" meaning "fearless" in Hindi and was intended as a tribute to the 23-year-old student whose brutal attack in India's capital in December 2012 sparked outrage about the levels of violence against women in India.

The student was given the nickname Nirbhaya (also meaning fearless) by the media and authorities after the attack because she could not be named under Indian law.

But activists said the gun showed Indian authorities "completely misunderstood" how they were supposed to protect women from high levels of violence across the country.

"It really is an insult to the memory of Nirbhaya," said Ms Binalakshmi Nepram, founder of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network said Sunday.

"Our research shows that a person is 12 times more likely to be shot dead if they are carrying a gun when attacked," she told AFP.

"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," she said.

The Indian government was introduced tougher laws for rapists and other offenders and a range of other judicial and policing reforms in the wake of outrage over the student's attack on a moving bus.

The attack shone a global spotlight on India's treatment of women, sparked protests and unleashed seething public anger about the daily harassment and violence facing women.

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