You may have heard the arguments surrounding its use and the intense government rigmarole regarding its effectiveness. In our hands, it would prove lethal, and yet it might be just what is needed to fight off predators.
A mist of “oleoresin capsicum,” equals to a dose of just enough chilli peppers to cause harm. Nevertheless, do not be fooled; it can also be used to incapacitate the very people who rely on it for a sense of security.
Known to contain lachrymatory agents, pepper spray is a compound that irritates the eyes causing a burning sensation, pain, and temporary blindness. Effective in its use against large animals such as bears, it is used to incapacitate people, with its side effects lasting well over a few minutes.
Its use is so controversial that it is illegal in many parts of the world, and there are strong views surrounding its classification as a “chemical weapon.”
In Iceland, Belgium and Denmark pepper spray is classified as a prohibited weapon and cannot be used as a self-defence measure. While Serbia and Slovakia classify it as a self-defence weapon available to anyone over 18, but its use against humans remain illegal.
Tellingly, there is an element of commonality that exists. Although pepper spray is prohibited for use by the public, its use is allowed under certain circumstances. Soldiers actively serving in the armed forces, police and prison officers, can use pepper within reason spray to execute their duties.
Owing to its classification under section 9 (a) of the Chemical Weapons Convention, as a riot-control agent, used for riot control purposes, the use of pepper spray falls outside the ambit of a prohibited device and is not prohibited by the convention when used in peacetime. Interestingly, however, Article I (5) of the Convention does not permit riot control agents to be used as a method of warfare.
This classification might be the very reason for the alarm and general disapproval surrounding pepper spray’s use. Still, countries like the United States, Western Australia, Switzerland, and Germany put a different spin on pepper spray’s practical use as a self-defence mechanism.
Switzerland and Germany have a strict licensing system and prescribe strict rules governing its usage. Because it is classified as a weapon, users require a license for use in a personal capacity. According to the German Arms Act, anyone interested in possessing pepper spray, or any other weapon, must satisfy rigorous conditions outlined by the act and undergo a lengthy, highly regulated process involving licenses through the German government.
In the US pepper spray is a household name due to its reliability as a defence tool for women and other vulnerable individuals. Though legal for self-defence purposes, some states only allow the use and possession of pepper spray under certain circumstances. Size, concentration, age, and other restrictions like a criminal record vary from state to state and is pretty much the only restrictions placed on its use. Also, carrying in public places with a few exceptions is allowed once concealed.
The 2019 global estimates published by WHO indicated that about 1 in 3 (35 per cent) of women worldwide had experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
These findings add to the continued dialogue surrounding safety measures for women and other vulnerable individuals.
As the conversation about self-defence and personal protection products continues, women consider pepper spray to be a reasonable defence mechanism against potential perpetrators.
Its controversial classification aside, pepper spray is a highly useful tool of defence. This portable, lightweight product can fit easily in a woman’s bag and can end an attack without the use of physical force or violent action. Its usage does not require intense training, and any long-lasting effects are minimal.
As far as positives go, there are a few cons that follow. Researchers found that pepper spray can be difficult to deploy in stressful and violent situations because the target area is small (mainly the eyes) and perpetrators may be wearing glasses or a mask that will interfere or negate the effects.
Pepper spray is not a magical fix-all solution. However, its uses have garnered high praises from women who might not be alive if unable to access it. In the hands of those who need it, pepper spray grants a fighting chance, but also has the potential to make other persons vulnerable. One thing’s for sure, in those countries where it is legal, regulation is key.
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