Indian women - smartphones against rape

2013-03-03 21:44
India rape protest. (Picture: AFP)

India rape protest. (Picture: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Mumbai - With virtual bodyguards, panic buttons and maps to pinpoint harassment black spots, women in urban India are using their smartphones for protection after a notorious gang rape in New Delhi.

Interest in safety apps and websites has surged since the fatal December attack, in which a 23-year-old student was set upon by a drunken gang on her way home from a cinema in the Indian capital.

After outrage and protests erupted, four businesswomen set up Safecity.in, a website for victims of harassment to channel their anger.

The site encourages them to "Pin the Creeps" by reporting incidents of harassment and abuse - ranging from catcalling to rape - which are added to an online map and sent to those requesting alerts.

Mumbai-based Elsa D'Silva, a founder of the site, said social media had allowed women to speak out and warn others of dangerous areas, even if they are reluctant to give their name or make a complaint to the police.

"Now you feel more empowered to do something about it, even if it's just sharing your experience," said D'Silva. "We're not going to keep quiet any more."

The website has linked up with new mobile app SafeTrac, developed by tech firm KritiLabs and downloadable for free, which has an SOS button to alert emergency contacts and lets relatives or friends track the user's journey.

It joins a host of similar apps designed to reassure women, especially those working late and travelling alone - that is, if they can afford mobile internet access.

The first such Indian app was FightBack, launched by non-profit trust Whypoll a year before the Delhi attack, since when it has gone free of charge and seen a flurry of downloads.

Whypoll founder Hindol Sengupta said they were now working on a "next generation" app that will include guidance for reporting abuse.

Legal rights

"Women often don't know their legal rights when they go to the police station and they can be further violated there," he said.

"The kind of people who have reached out to us for information has astounded me."

Such developments are being encouraged. India's IT trade body Nasscom has opened a contest to find the best app for women's safety. Separately, free app Stipator (Latin for "bodyguard") won an award for social innovation last month from Nasscom.

A government commission, set up to prevent sex crimes after the Delhi attack, recommended the development of mobile phone apps for sending distress signals to the police.

Even in Mumbai, considered one of India's safest cities, police launched their own ICE (In Case of Emergency) app in January and say they have seen thousands of downloads, although its practicality has been criticised.

A piece in the DNA newspaper pointed out that many women in India cannot afford a basic mobile phone, let alone the Android device required.

"Also, when in distress, how often do we get time to take the phone out of our bag, unlock it and open an application to let people know we are in trouble?" it asked.

Technology clearly has its limits: it cannot fulfil the need for decent law enforcement, or change attitudes towards women.

And while the Indian smartphone market is rising rapidly - expected to soon become the world's third largest - it still accounts for a fraction of about 700 million active mobile subscriptions in the country.

Most safety apps require GPS capabilities that standard mobile phones do not have, although some developers offer emergency texting services.

The creators of Stipator, Ratnesh Desai and three fellow Microsoft employees in Hyderabad city, are also working on a "lipstick-sized" safety device for women without phones.

Techies and activists hope that if their tools catch on, they might one day act as a deterrent to abuse.

"If word gets out there are such apps, people wanting to molest someone will have to be more careful," said Desai.

Read more on:    india  |  internet
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
6 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Hottie of the day: Nicole Meyer!

Nicole is the cover girl for the 2014 edition of SA Swimsuit! Check out some smoking hot pics of here here.

 
 

Men24.com

11 things men don’t know about their clothes
Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!
This is how the Top Gear presenters spend their £55 million!
Thirty and still single? There’s hope!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It may be hard to stay cool, calm and collected. Your emotions can get quite heated in the moment. You may benefit from finding a...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.