Mobile Apps Help Women in India Avoid Assault, Rape and Harassment

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NEW DELHI — A woman in India is raped or assaulted every 20 minutes. A third of these cases involve women under 18 years old. One in 10 involve a girl 10 years old or younger.

These statistics are derived from reported cases. The majority of cases, especially among the poorest women in rural areas, go unreported.

As reported by Huffington Post, the police agencies in India are incapable of handling these types of crimes. Most police forces are understaffed, underpaid or corrupt. Many women don’t report rape or assault because they believe nothing will be done about it.

Due to the ineptness of India’s police, women and non-governmental agencies are trying to make India’s public spaces safer by developing mobile apps.

In Delhi, Elsa D’Silva helped co-launch the Safecity app after she was raped. In an interview with The Guardian, she said that after it happened she knew women security and safety needed to be addressed in Indian society.

The Safecity app allows women in India to report rape, assault and harassment that happen in public spaces. Women can share what happened, where it happened and when it happened. This raises awareness about dangerous areas, but it also brings women and groups together to solve these problems.

D’Silva says there is no “one size fits all” solution to these crimes against women. Rape, assault and harassment are different by area.

For example, in one of Delhi’s poorer neighborhoods, women reported assault and harassment when urinating in public due to a lack of access to toilets. Local authorities had closed public restrooms because they did not want to maintain them.

When D’Silva and neighborhood residents found out about this, they successfully pressured the local government to reopen the bathrooms. There has been a stark drop in assault and harassment since.

Another app that is improving women’s safety is the instant Complaint logging internet kiosk. Developed by a police officer, iClick allows women to report harassment, assault and rape directly to police stations where it logs cases on a computer system.

Although the app doesn’t guarantee there will be a police investigation, it raises awareness that women safety and security is a widespread issue that needs to be addressed. Just seven months after launching, iClick has more women reporting their cases than ever.

The development and implementation of these apps comes at a time when cell phones are coming to more Indians than ever. According to the World Bank, nearly 75 percent of India’s populace has access to cell phones.

Although many use their cell phones for poverty reduction measures, such as cash transfers, the increasing use of Safecity, iClick and other safety apps is encouraging.

What once went unreported, especially among the most impoverished, women safety and security is now being pushed to the forefront of public issues.

Sources: The Guardian, Huffington Post, More Magazine, World Bank
Photo: The Guardian

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