Should women be allowed to carry pepper spray for self-defence?

  • 29/06/2017

A debate is raging in Australia as to whether women should be allowed to carry pepper spray.

Earlier this month, senator David Leyonhjelm called for new laws allowing Australians to arm themselves with non-lethal weapons in case of terror attacks.

Now another Australian, TV reporter Stacey Lee, wants women to be allowed to carry pepper spray to protect themselves in dangerous situations.

The debate has raised similar questions in New Zealand, especially after a spate of recent attacks on women in the country. Just this week, police appealed for help identifying a man who allegedly indecently assaulted two female joggers.

A number of women Three's The Project spoke with said carrying pepper spray would make them feel safer.

However, not only can the general public not carry pepper spray on the streets, in New Zealand it's actually easier to get your hands on a gun.

Pepper spray, mace and similar products are classified as 'restricted weapons', on the same list as machine guns, grenades and rocket launchers.

A police spokesperson told Newshub pepper spray is only for soldiers, police and prison officers.

By comparison, all US states allow people to buy and carry pepper spray, with varying restrictions such as an age limit of 18.

But the debate isn't clear cut. Sexual Abuse Prevention Network's Fiona McNamara argues by making pepper spray easier to obtain for people to use it for protection, it'll also be easier for those who mean harm to get it.

"Pepper spray really is a distraction from the real issue," she told The Project.

"The real issue is that there are people out there who want to harm other people, and we really need to be addressing that behaviour... rather than putting the emphasis on a potential victim having to keep themselves safe."

Ms McNamara empathised with the women who said they'd feel safer if they carried pepper spray.

"It's a really sad situation, to have a world where people don't feel safe walking home at night," Ms Namara said.

Kanoa Lloyd, the only female presenter on The Project on Thursday night, agreed with her.

"I think that one way to prevent sexual assault and violent attacks is for people to stop committing sexual assaults and violent attacks," she said.

"Unfortunately, no amount of pepper spray is going to be able to do that."