Jim McMahon

In India, it’s becoming increasingly important for young women to know how to defend themselves. Here, a Muslim high school student in the city of Hyderabad practices Vovinam, a Vietnamese martial art that uses swords and sticks; she and other students performed it during International Women’s Day festivities in March. Self-defense classes for Indian girls began growing in popularity after a 23-year-old woman was attacked and killed by a group of men while riding a bus in 2012. Other brutal assaults have also made headlines since then. The violence has prompted intense soul-searching and fierce public debate, giving women the courage to come forward and demand justice, rather than suffer in silence in this traditionally male-dominated society. And many police departments have begun offering self-defense training, while some schools have classes that teach girls how to punch, kick, and karate chop in case they’re ever attacked. “At this time, girls aren’t safe,” says Mona Shamsher, a high school student who trained a couple years ago. “Men treat us like we aren’t human.” But, she adds, “this gives me confidence.”