The recent social media phenomenon #MeToo showed how commonly women are molested in public places. However, most of them find it difficult to respond in such a situation.
But 19-year-old Nikitha Suresh, a second year law student in Thiruvananthapuram, was quick on her feet to take on her harasser.
The man, a head constable, tried to get away after groping Nikitha in a public place, but he hadn't reckoned with the fact that the young woman was trained in the martial art of Karate.
The incident happened last Saturday at a parking lot in Trida shopping complex in the city, near the medical college.
Nikitha was out with her mother and her sister Neha, a school student.
"My mother was driving the car and there was a tricky slope she had to drive over. It was a familiar place as we frequently go there. My sister and I were standing outside the car, while our mother was trying to get the car out. Suddenly, this man came and told my mother something very sexually explicit, about women driving. After this, he walked past me, groped and tried to flee. I was taken aback for a moment, but chased him before he managed to escape. I kicked him on his leg so that he wouldn't escape and then people gathered around. My sister too reacted strongly, shouting at the man," Nikitha says.
The man was taken to the nearest police station by the public.
It was only later that the family realised that the molester was a police constable attached to the Neyyattinkara police station. He has been charged for harassing and verbally abusing women.
"We would have anyway gone to the police station and filed a case even if it had been a common man. But because he was a police officer, someone expected to provide us security, we were clear that we wanted to go ahead with the case," Nikita says.
Nikitha has been training in Karate for some time and it’s been six months since her younger sister Neha joined the class. A blue belt, Nikitha has taken part in a few tournaments, too.
Even in Karate training, Nikita has noticed gender discrimination. In the first class that she went for, at the age of 15, she noticed that the trainer would teach the difficult moves only to the boys. This prompted Nikita to quit the class and train under another expert.
The confidence boost that learning a martial art gave her is immense, Nikitha points out.
"Learning karate has of course helped me react better to such circumstances. I have friends who say that girls need to ignore such harassment and not make a fuss. But it’s very important for us to be trained in self-defense mechanisms and also to react strongly to such harassment so that other men will get the message that it is not okay to grope a woman," she says.
Not just the society's attitude, it's the girl's family too that conditions her to accept sexual harassment, Nikita feels.
"There are families who do not let the girl children learn Karate. They would instead force the girls to learn dance and not a physically exerting art like Karate. But by discouraging these girls, what parents don't realise is that Karate or any other self-defense art will ultimately guarantee that the girl is safe," asserts Nikita.