News / Asia

Indian Mobile Phone App Aims to Thwart Sexual Assaults

A recently launched mobile phone application in India called 'Fight Back' aims to protect women against sexual assault as more women in nation's growing economy join the work force in urban areas, January 2012.
A recently launched mobile phone application in India called 'Fight Back' aims to protect women against sexual assault as more women in nation's growing economy join the work force in urban areas, January 2012.
Kurt Achin

In India's burgeoning economy, more and more women are going to work in offices - exposing them to what can sometimes be dangerous urban conditions. Now, a new technological initiative aims to protect women against sexual assault.

Cheena Sikka is typical of the modern, professional Indian woman. She works hard. She works late.

When her shift is finished, a company cab takes her part of the way home. But she worries about the five to 10 minutes she has to walk alone to reach her door.

"It's dark and the kind of people who are around, you cannot feel safe with them. I'm not very comfortable walking all alone," said Sikka.

'Fight Back' tracks location

So, before the cab even starts moving, Cheena activates a recently launched mobile phone application called "Fight Back." It begins tracking her exact location via GPS.

"The moment you feel uncomfortable, you really don't need to do anything else but press one button," said Sikka.

Jagdish Mitra is CEO of Canvasm Technologies, the tech company that developed Fight Back.

When a user presses the panic button, she has a few seconds to cancel her decision. If she doesn't, a location-specific alert is sent out via text message, email, and on Facebook to any friends and family she has chosen to include in a list.

Data from users is collated into an interactive map. Mitra said his company keeps an eye on the map - but does not serve as a public monitoring center.

"We are not in the provision of managing the law, if you may. The law has to be managed by the people who actually are authorized to do it, which is the police and so on and so forth," said Mitra.

Making cities safer

Delhi's poorly lit streets can be forbidding. Official 2010 statistics, with more than 400 reported sexual assaults, have led many media organizations to label the city "India's rape capital."

"While the app to me is very important and has a good role to play, I think what we have to be careful about is that it doesn't again fall back on women to solve their problem," said Kalpana Viswanath, a researcher with the women's advocacy organization Jagori, which focuses on making cities safer for women. Her research includes recommendations on better lighting, wider sidewalks, more thoughtful zoning - and what she calls a more "holistic" approach to designing city life.

"What kind of a city do we want? How are we urbanizing? If we are saying that in another 15-20 years India is going to be more urban than rural, what kind of cities do we want? So if the problem is that societies and cultures and our police and our infrastructure is wanting, then that is what we need to address," said Viswanath.

Using, improving tools

"Most women don't go to the police because in most parts of the country, the police are seen as more part of the problem than part of the solution,"  said Hindol Sengupta, a founder of Whypoll, the civic trust partner in the Fight Back project. He said police often are "lackadaisical" in enforcing complaints about safety from women.

"We're saying here's a tool - you can go to the police if you want, and so you should, and so you must," said Sengupta. "But in case you choose not to, and in case you can't reach them, you can directly reach out to your friends and family. And together, you can propel the system. You can propel the security apparatus, so to speak, to act."

The makers of Fight Back say senior police officials in Delhi and other Indian cities have expressed a keen interest in establishing formal links to the system. The approval and implementation process is likely to delay that step for several months.

You May Like

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs