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These sisters were sexually harassed on a bus in India: Here's what they did about it (+video)

Two sisters fought back against sexual harassment. Their moves are being applauded in a country where sexual violence has come under the spotlight in the last few years.

A video of two sisters fighting back against alleged sexual harassers on a bus in northern India is the latest spark in a continuing conversation about the country's sexual violence issues.

Almost two years after the fatal gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi ignited massive protests across the nation, this video depicts a vastly different scene on a mode of Indian public transportation that has since come under scrutiny.

The footage, taken by a passenger a couple rows back from the scene, shows two young women pushing, pulling, and hitting – including swinging a belt -– three men as other passengers look on.

The pair say they were provoked by lewd comments and gestures from the men while waiting at the bus station. When the sisters objected, things escalated and worsened on board the bus, according to NDTV.

"One of the boys started touching my sister and making kissing gestures," Arati Kumar, 22, told reporters, according to the Associated Press.

"I told him to go away or I would teach him a lesson. Then he called another boy saying that we have to beat up two girls. And then the other boy got on the bus."

At one point, one of the men holds one sister's arm back while another holds the other sister down on a seat by her neck.

Pooja, 19, the younger sister, said other passengers "just watched and did nothing," according to the BBC.

"They saw us hit them, they saw us being harassed," she said. "But they just sat back like it was a performance."

The video was taken Friday as the women commuted home from college, and three young men were arrested Sunday, police said, according to NDTV.

The BBC reported a stream of people trying to meet the women who "have become the toast of the country."

The sisters said it's something women face "all the time" in that part of the country and that this time they felt things had gone too far.

The government, including India's prime minister, has promised to take steps to ensure women's safety on the streets, but many feel that will mean little until social attitudes toward women shift, according to the BBC.

The response by the sisters follows a string of incidents that have set off public protests over sexual violence in the country in recent years.

After the death of a young Indian woman, who was beaten and gang-raped on a moving bus in December 2012, sent thousands to the streets in protest, politicians vowed rape victims would no longer be shamed and the judicial system promised rapists would no longer be able to blame their victims.

Despite increased sentences for rape convictions, the 2013 rape of a 5-year-old girl led protesters to call for harsher penalties and some to argue for critical police reform.

Tougher laws against rape, increased media focus on sexual violence, and new police units dedicated to helping women, suggested progress. But the brutal gang rape and hanging of two cousins in May "revealed the immense gulf that remains in India," and fueled the public outcry further.

Also this year, a young woman was punished by her village council with gang rape for her relationship with a man from outside her community. And a Mumbai court handed down the death penalty to three men for the August 2013 gang rape of a photojournalist there.

Last month, an Indian man confessed to murdering his daughter's alleged rapist, a vigilante response that reflects a continuing distrust of the nation's judicial system when it comes to rape cases.

A national poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in the past year shows that nine out of 10 Indians agree that the crime of rape is a “very big problem” in the country. Eight in 10 say the problem is growing. About 74 percent say that the laws in the country are too lax when it comes to punishing cases of rape, and 78 percent fault law enforcement for being too lax when it comes to cases of rape.

The video of the two sisters fighting back has garnered an enormous response on Twitter, many applauding the young women, and as many shaming the bystanders – and the government.

 
 
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