New Delhi: A handgun designed for women and named after the young physiotherapy intern who died two weeks after she was brutally gang-raped in Delhi in 2012 has been condemned by rights activists 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 Rs 1,22,360 ($1,976) - was launched earlier this month, a leading national daily said on Friday.
"At least 80 percent 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 the national 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 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 Binalakshmi Nepram, founder of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network said on 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 government 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 gang-rape 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.