All New Cell Phones In India Will Have A Panic Button To Protect Women & Prevent Assault

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The Indian government are stepping up their focus on preventing gender violence and curbing the high rates of rape and sexual assault in the country. India’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology recently announced that starting in 2017, all cell phones will be required to have a panic button in a bid to help women (who are overwhelmingly the victims of violence in India) feel safe and easily contact law enforcement if they are in a threatening situation.

CNN Money reports that many phone companies already include a panic response feature in their products, but the Ministry’s mandate will include the roll out of a centralized emergency response number that people can call, similar to 911.

Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also said that a GPS function will become mandatory starting in 2018 for services to help locate a woman if she is in danger.

At the moment, calling law enforcement and protective services requires different numbers, which the government sees as part of the problem. They have been working closely with phone manufacturers to come up with the best possible system and product for women to buy.

“Women’s safety is the key driver to this [regulation] happening,” said JS Deepak, secretary in the communications ministry.

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This is yet another initiative focused on eliminating gender violence in a large number we have seen ever since the horrific 2012 Delhi gang rape of a young woman which became an international outrage. Patriarchal culture which is part of many different facets of Indian society, as seen in the shocking and eye-opening documentary ‘India’s Daughter‘ where both the poor, uneducated rapists as well as their highly educated lawyers both agree that the woman deserved to be attacked because she was out an night with a male friend who was neither her husband or father.

Let’s be clear, this is not an isolated case, it just happened to be one of the most high profile over the past few years which brought home the confronting reality of gender inequality in one of the most populous countries in the world.

“One can no longer look at sexual violence in isolation. It is connected to a terribly exploitative environment that takes advantage of the women and girls at every possible stage, in every facet of their lives,” said Audrey D’Mello, program director at the Majlis Legal Centre for Women in Mumbai, to the International Business Times last year.

We have shared numerous stories about campaigns, initiatives, businesses and projects that have been borne out a desire to see this destructive patriarchal culture broken down, in favor of one that treats women as equal so that they do not have to fear the consequences of simply walking alone at night.

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There is definitely something to be said for the government and authoritative organizations playing an integral part in the prevention of violence, but this has to be coupled with a cultural revolution centered around gender equality. There has to be a change in the mindset of men who view women as less than equal, for gender equal measures to truly be effective and widespread.

In February this year, it was reported that in the state of Gujurat, certain rural villages are banning women and girls under the age of 18 from owning cell phones, as they believe it distracts them from their studies.

“The girls don’t study properly if they have mobile phones, and they can get into all sorts of bad situations. Let them study, get married, then they can get their own phones. Until then, they can use their fathers’ phones at home, if necessary,” said Ranjit Singh Thakor, president of the Mehsana district council.

This ruling followed a similar ban in the state of Bihar a few years ago, where it was determined cell phones “debase the social atmosphere” by supposedly encouraging women to elope. This is a ban that carries a fine.

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While it is admirable, somewhat, that the state of Gujurat wants girls to concentrate on their studies, we can hardly take comfort in this when the overarching agenda is to take away even the small amount of autonomy and independence that comes with having technology.

The government rolling out a centralized emergency number is a huge step in the right direction, but it also has to find a way to identify major flaws like the cell phone bans in Gujurat and Bihar in order to ensure the panic button initiative is effective for all women.

Wearable technology as a preventative measure against sexual assault is being used even in the United States, such as the Athena necklace designed for women on college campuses across the US which comes inbuilt with a panic button function.

We are positive that India’s new cell phone panic buttons and centralized emergency system is a major step in the right direction, and hope to see the continued movement toward eliminating gender violence from a practical as well as cultural standpoint.

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  1. Pingback: UK Startup Aims To Recruit 1000 Women In Tech By 2020, Placing Focus On Skills Development - GirlTalkHQ

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