Women in urban India are turning towards smartphones for protection after the notorious gang-rape in New Delhi, with virtual bodyguards, panic buttons and maps to pinpoint harassment blackspots.
Interest in safety apps and websites has surged since the fatal December attack, in which a 23-year-old student was gangraped by drunken men in a bus while she was on her way home from a cinema in the Indian capital, reports the Herald Sun.
AdvertisementFollowing the incident, 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, 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 has allowed women to speak out and warn others of dangerous areas, even if they were reluctant to give their name or make a complaint to the police.
The website has linked 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 would include guidance for reporting abuse. Women often don't know their legal rights when they go to the police station and they can be further violated there, he said.
However, 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.
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