India is not a good country for women’s safety and rape or molestation are present across the everyday life. The movie “India’s daughter“, which soon has been banned in India, portrays the rape and murder of the 23 years old medical student in Delhi. She was brutally gang raped and murdered on a bus at night. This is not an exemption but rather can be used as representative case for the “culture of rape” that is often linked to India.
We see that rape is a serious problem, but how can technology be utilized for it? India is the second biggest mobile phone market in the world. The number of people owning a mobile phone is growing and for women in the city, it is very common to own a smartphone. Therefore, it might seem obvious that an app might be a solution to the problem, in the context of ICT4D. There is an app that has been originally developed in the USA called “circle of 6”. After the gang rape of the 23 year old, the download increased around a 1000 percent in India and even a Hindi version has been developed. The app links people to persons of trusts. The options are numerous, for example sending an emergency massage to the persons of trust or making an emergency call. The outcomes of this app are not evaluated, yet. As smartphones are easy to carry around and often in the use anyway, the app might be a valuable addition to make women feel more save in the public alone.
The app, therefore, has been adopted to the local needs of India. It is an example of the contextual adoption of ICTs and shows that there can be exchanges of knowledge/ICT resources between the Global North and the Global South, if the local context is regarded. While the app has its roots in a campaign by President Obama against abuse in the United States.
2 Comments to "The “Culture of Rape” and the Try to Tackle It with ICT"
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An interesting post. However, without reading the original article on Forbes I couldn’t understand how this new app – circle of 6 – worked, so it is very good you have provided a link to it. In addition, it will be interesting to find out how many rapes have been prevented since they (women in India) started using the new app?
It is indeed intriguing to see how new apps evolve today, in order to prevent violent crimes to take place and as Milena denotes in her comment, it will be interesting to see whether these apps actually have any real effects in the Indian society in the future. I must admit that I am slightly skeptical what an app of this kind actually can do for Indian women, however, it doesn’t make it less interesting to discuss it. Saying that I am skeptical is because I wonder whether private individuals shall become forced to personally involve themselves in the prevention of crimes, maybe even showing up in situations that can be potentially dangerous for them as well, due to their authorities and governments failing to protect a large part of their population. It also could be relevant to question whether these rape-prevention apps might cause some form of false safety for the users.
I am not completely aware of all the functions of the “Circle of 6”, but I know that there is one similar Swedish app that also was developed with the purpose of preventing rape as well, called Bsafe. I haven’t tried it though, but I know that bSafe has a function called Follow Me, which gives the user a possibility to invite friends to follow them via GPS-tracking, to use when you, for instance, are walking home alone. It also has functions such as I’m here, which can be sent to one’s friends of choice, a fake call-function that can activate a fake call to your phone in order to interrupt or scare the rapist and the emergency-button, as well as an alarm-button. I think that one of the most important features in this app, is the function to video-record, notifying the exact time and date, aiming to secure evidence on a potential crime scene .
Another thing that your post made me think of was the actual accessibility of ICTs for women in India, especially whether there is a lack of access to mobile phones due to persisting gender (or economic inequalities). Cummings and O’Neill , for example point out that the use ICTs are often a reflection of a society, of “the social, economic and political structure- relating to gender and class”, which in turn impact how women and girls get access and use new information technologies. India being a very patriarchal society structured by gender, as well as class-based power relations, there is also a doubt that those women that would need an app of this kind the most would maybe not even have access to it.
 Cummings, C. & O’Neil, T. (2015). Do digital information and communications technologies increase the voice and influence of women and girls? – A rapid review of the evidence.