The world has become so insecure. Being afraid when walking down the street or operating a business has become a reality for many following increase in crime rate. For safety, many are going an extra mile to protect themselves.\u00a0 Ann Nyathira \u201cI always carry a penknife and a nail file in my handbag, I have carried them since my university days. I studied at Daystar University, Athi River campus. There was little settlement in the area\u2014just a small shopping centre and students hostel,\u201d says Maureen Kinyanjui. \u00a0After classes, which ended at around 4pm, Maureen would be left behind for group discussions or privately studying in the library. She lived at a private hostel, a kilometre from the campus and walking home in the evening knowing she had this pen knife in her bag made her feel a little bit safe. \u201cI knew I would use it to attack or scare off anyone posing a danger to me,\u201d she adds. \u00a0In a world where women face all kinds of assault, the penknife has been useful to her. \u201cA lot of people, especially women face a lot of aggression these days. I have heard of cases where women are harassed, abused or touched inappropriately in public spaces. I know I am not allowed to carry a gun, but a penknife and a nail file come handy,\u201d she says. Scaring attackers Last year she and her workmates went to Westlands for a catch up. While revelling, a man she did not know approached her and pestered her to dance with him. He tried to get a grip of her so he can force her into the dance floor. \u201cI asked him off politely, but he persisted. We were willing to move to another spot, but this man would not leave me alone, he grabbed my waist and I immediately removed my penknife. The moment he realised I was ready to use it on him, he laughed it off and walked away,\u201d she recalls the horrifying experience. \u00a0It is not different for Elizabeth Nyambura who believes everyone has a right to live their life without feeling insecure or unsafe. Being able to go from point A to B without looking over your shoulder or worrying that the next attack will involve you or a loved one.\u00a0 For five years now, she has been carrying a penknife and pepper spray, which are the most common and effective defence weapons. A bottle of pepper spray is compact and in most situations, can be easily snug into your handbag. In an emergency, all one needs to do is spray it in the eyes of the attacker. The spray acts as an irritant to the eyes and skin of the culprit. \u00a0\u201cWith the pepper spray, you must hold it at arm\u2019s length and then aim to spray on the attacker\u2019s face. Just like so many other people, I do not feel safe walking around. I have seen situations where unspeakable and horrendous things have happened to people and I have had to defend myself from several men using a penknife. I still felt that carrying a pepper spray and a penknife does not help much. So, I enrolled for a self-defence class,\u201d she says. For Gladys Nyachieo, a sociologist, the decision to carry a self-defence weapon is triggered by people not feeling safe in their surroundings. This, she says, could be due to previous experiences such as physical attack or even witnessing it. \u201cPeople carry weapons for different purposes. For some, like the Maasai, it is cultural. To others, it is for protection in case of any eventualities,\u201d she says. Taking care \u00a0Besides, Nyachieo says some people use such weapons to commit crimes maybe after partying or after work. According to her, carrying a self-defence weapon is only justifiable depending on who and where they are likely to be at some point. \u00a0\u201cSomeone who works late night, especially women who have to walk some distance to catch a matatu might need a pepper spray or a penknife. Pepper spray is better than a penknife since it will not inflict life-threatening injuries. But with a penknife, you never know how the situation might turn out. You could fatally injure someone and if you kill or cause bodily harm whether intended or unintended, you will face the law,\u201d she adds. However, Anthony Odek a legal consultant says although some think carrying a self-defence weapon will provide protection, it sometimes leads to an increase in violence since the more knives carried by people on the street, the more likely it is that someone will pull a weapon in an argument or use it in an attack, even in self-defence. So does carrying a penknife or a pepper spray come with its risks? People ought to be careful when carrying objects that are likely to cause harm to another in the name of self-defence because any situation may arise that will cause provocation and such an object may be used in the commission of a crime in that instance. \u201cThe legality of what\u2019s allowed in your pockets hinges on intent. Carrying a penknife is not necessarily illegal, but if found with such an object and, especially in social spaces you can be suspected of being a criminal. \u201cYou might think you are carrying it to protect yourself, but end up in a lot of trouble once you use it on someone, especially if you kill someone while at it. Self-defence is relative and circumstantial and does not always absolve you of guilt in the court of law,\u201d he advises.