In the wake of a brutal string of gang-rapes of female bus passengers — one in New Delhi and one in Gurdaspur — Indian officials have unveiled a new weapon they’re hoping can help combat violence against women.
Kapil Sibal, minister of information technology, announced last week that the Center for Development of Advanced Computing, a unit within the Indian government’s Department of Electronics and Information Technology, plans to make a watch that can alert authorities and family members if danger is at hand.
The watch would be equipped with a button that sends a text message to the nearest police station and chosen relatives. A GPS system within the device will help pinpoint the wearer’s location. The watch will also feature a built-in video camera that will be activated and record for 30 minutes once the button is pushed.
According the the Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time, Sibal said he expects the government to develop a prototype by mid-year and eventually allocate companies to produce the device. A government press release stated that initial talks had taken place between the government and India Telephone Industries (ITI), a state-run telecommunications equipment manufacturer. ITI’s chairman, K.L. Dhingra later confirmed those talks to India Real Time.
Sibal said the watch is proposed to be sold in two versions — one for $20 and another for about $50. Though when it comes a rape prevention tool, is there really any room for a discount option? And can the watch really help close the gap between a threat and the law enforcement’s response?
While the watch is certainly better than nothing, some women’s rights activists are skeptical…and rightly so. A 2011 study by Trust Law, an organization which calls itself a “global hub” of “news and information on good governance and women’s rights,” ranked India as the fourth most-dangerous country for women. And if you’re unfamiliar with dowry-related violence in India, here’s a refresher compliments of the UN.
“I don’t think this will make any difference in controlling rape cases,” Sehba Farooqui, a woman’s rights activist in Delhi, told India Real Time.
Still, this is a step in the right direction. Let’s just hope those steps turn into strides.
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