— Three engineering students in the Indian state of Chennai have created a GPS-equipped anti-rape device that they claimed on Tuesday will become an "instant solution'' to sexual attacks on women in India, highlighted by the death of a girl allegedly gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi in December.
The students have created GPS equipped anti-rape underwear capable of knocking down sexual assaulters with 3,800 kilovolt shocks that will also alert police when activated.
Resembling a nightgown with wiring between the breasts, the underwear - called Society Harnessing Equipment (S.H.E.) - sends an electric current to the assaulter the moment he tries to press a woman's body, connecting a circuit inside the underwear.
The trio, all engineering students at a university in the southern Indian city of Chennai, said the idea for the innovation was triggered by the assault on a 23-year-old student who was brutally gang-raped in a moving bus in New Delhi last December, sending shivers across the globe.
The girl later succumbed to injuries in a hospital in Singapore, sparking nationwide debate over the safety of women in India and country's lax anti rape laws.
One of the creators of the electric lingerie, Rimpi Tripathi, said the product would not only protect the woman but also deliver instant punishment to the offender.
"We wanted to bring in a solution, an instant solution, punishment on the spot, so that it can be proved as a deterrent - that the person who has tried to attempt rape on a girl should be shocked and should be terrified with that shock actually, so that he can never even dream of raping or touching a girl with an evil sense,'' she said.
Months of handwork, careful planning and the creation of sensitive electric circuits that do not harm the woman wearing the underwear have been vital to the innovation, she added.
Niladri Basubal, another co-creator, said the initial shock would incapacitate the attacker and it would be followed by multiple shocks, up to another 82 times the power to ensure that the attacker is stopped in their tracks.
"As soon as the criminal places his hand, he will get a shock of 3,800 kilovolts, voltage, and immediately he will be incapacitated and even if he tries to get up and attack once more, we have a facility that will produce 82 times shock. So, definitely, that will be enough,'' he said.
The trio is working on ensuring that the product is water-resistant and can be interfaced with mobile via Bluetooth.
Tripathi said the three innovators had spent a lot of time and research on creating an insulating layer on the underwear to prevent it from sending electric shocks to the person wearing it.
"It is not possible because we are here with an insulating layer, which will be in contact with the body that will be insulating so she will never get a shock for herself. It will be a shock to the one who touches it and the pressure we have already calibrated,'' she said.
The team is also working on finding a suitable fabric, allowing women to wash it like an ordinary garment before it is made available on the market.
Manisha Mohan said they could not show the actual prototype of the product until patent approval has been granted.
"We aren't releasing out the design, the portfolio, at all right now because we are bound to the prior act rules and regulations, and apart from that we have filed in a provisional patent and we are working over it," Mohan explained.
She added that the product has a huge advantage over tasers and sprays because of the reduced reaction time.
The developers are also talking to various investors and corporate houses for mass production and marketing of the product once the patent is granted and the product is further fine tuned.
Girls like Shanjali Sharma at the engineering students' S.R.M. university in Chennai hailed the innovation, saying it could be a milestone in protecting women's safety if developed properly.
''These days it is getting very difficult for girls to move around, it is very unsafe for them actually, especially in Chennai, in the local trains and buses, it is actually very tough for us to move around. So, this innovation is actually very helpful for all of us and we hope that they do it perfectly," she said.
Indian authorities have struggled to combat rising crimes against women, including domestic violence, molestation, trafficking and rape.
India has robust gender laws, but they are hardly enforced, partly because a feudal mindset is as prevalent among bureaucrats, magistrates and the police as it is elsewhere.