‘Fight Back’ phone app to protect women in India

NEW DELHI: Women in India‘s capital, New Delhi, will soon be able to fight off potential attackers with a push of a phone button that will alert not only friends, family and police but also sound an alarm on their social networking websites.

One in every four rapes in India occurs in New Delhi, police say, with reports of women being bundled into moving cars and gang-raped before being dumped on roadsides, giving the city an unsavoury reputation as the “rape capital” of the nation. There is one rape every 18 hours, according to police.

The phone app ” Fight Back” will be launched in November by a local charity and will function as an SOS alert device — sending out a text message with a GPS location to up to five people, including police, and as a post on Facebook and Twitter.

“Safety for women has become such a huge issue here and we felt that citizens of Delhi, where possibly the problem exists the most, could use this type of technological intervention,” said Hindol Sengupta, co-founder of Whypoll, which created the application.

“Women are harassed and molested everywhere on buses, at metro stations, in markets … we believe this is Asia’s first phone application aimed at making women safer.”

In conservative and largely patriarchal India, women face a barrage of threats ranging from forced marriage and dowry murders to human trafficking, domestic violence, “honour killings” and abduction as well as sexual harassment and rape.

Rape cases in India increased by 760.4 per cent to 21,397 cases in 2009 from 2,487 in 1971, according to latest figures from the National Crime Records Bureau.

But activists say this is a gross underestimation of the actual number of crimes, with most women afraid to go to police, fearing stigma and family dishonour.

While male attitudes towards women have improved over the last two decades due to greater awareness, the dangers to women remain starkly evident — particularly in New Delhi.

The “Fight Back” app will initially be available to download from the Whypoll website (whypoll.org) for a nominal fee and will be supported by a range of mobile devices such as Nokia and BlackBerry. SOS alerts will cost the same as an SMS.

Sengupta said the app, which is part of the Whypoll’s “Safe in the City” campaign, will also map the SOS alerts to build an accurate database of where and what gender-related crimes occur.

“We have created a platform where women can remain anonymous yet the incident will still be recorded and reflected on a map on our website — which will help us push for action in places where there appears to be increased risks to women,” he said.


Court slams handing over of rape victim to alleged rapist



ACP directed to ensure girl’s presence in court on next hearing

Following the failure of a placement agency owner to produce in court an alleged victim of rape, who was handed over to the man by a magistrate on condition that he would produce her in court when told to do so, a Sessions court in Rohini here, on finding that this man was an accused in another rape case, has directed the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Saraswati Vihar) to ensure the girl’s presence in court on the next date of hearing.

Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau was slated to record the testimony of the victim when it came to the court’s attention that she had been released on superdari to a placement agency owner, Bhanu Pratap, who had filed the complaint of rape for the victim against her employer at Saraswati Vihar police station. Despite summons being served to Bhanu Pratap, he did not produce the girl on the pretext that she had gone to her native village.

Following the defence counsel submitting before the court that complainant Bhanu Pratap was himself a person with a dubious background having two criminal cases against him, one of which was a rape case, the court took a serious view of the matter, wondering how an alleged victim of rape could be handed over to a person with such a dubious background, and called for a verification report from the SHO, Saraswati Vihar and the ACP concerned.

The report aligned with defence counsel’s submission stated that Bhanu Pratap was involved in two criminal cases registered at Punjabi Bagh police station – one under the Gambling Act in which he was held guilty and the other a rape case in which trial has been pending following framing of charges against him.

“This being the background of the complainant, why is it then that the prosecutrix (a rape victim) was permitted to be handed over to this person? I am shocked to observe that this background of the complainant/superdar being involved in two criminal cases was not within the knowledge of the investigating agency as claimed by the SHO. It goes without saying that the credentials and background of the person to whom the victim of rape is being handed over is of utmost importance.”

Though the SHO had stated that he had opposed the grant of superdari of the girl to Bhanu Pratap in the court of the metropolitan magistrate where proceedings first began and that the victim herself chose to go with Bhanu Pratap rather than her parents, the court was not satisfied.

“The question is why the metropolitan magistrate was not apprised of the criminal background of the superdar and in case, if an order of superdari was passed in Bhanu Pratap’s favour, was it not necessary for the prosecution to have challenged the same, which they have not done till date? In so far as this court is concerned, it is totally unacceptable ,” Dr. Lau said.

Noting the involvement of placement agencies and their role in several human trafficking cases recently, the court said: “This is an aspect which requires to be highlighted to the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, so that due care is taken in future to ensure that the antecedents and the criminal background of the complainants and superdars to whom the victims of sexual abuse are handed over, particularly in cases involving placement agencies, are checked and verified before the release of the said victims to them.”

NHRC gets compliance report form States and UnionTerritories on Vishakha guidelines

New Delhi July 30, 2007 All the States and the Union Territories have made necessary amendments in their conduct rules and regulations to implement the Supreme Court’s guidelines on sexual harassment at the workplace.

The National Human Rights Commission, which had been supervising the implementation of the guidelines, has been given the compliance reports by all the States and Union Territories in this regard.

In the year 1997, the Supreme Court issued the Vishakha guidelines on sexual harassment at the workplace. The inception of the guidelines came about after Bhanwari Devi, a 50-year-old social worker in Rajasthan fought the practice of child marriage as a part of her job as saathin in the villages. The upper castes were taken aback by the action of Bhanwari Devi who challenged their tradition, despite belonging to a lower caste. Five men from the upper caste family of the child gangraped her in the presence of her husband. To add to her miseries the village authorities, the police and doctors all dismissed her situation and the trial court acquitted the accused. Appalled at the blatant injustice and inspired by Bhanwari Devi’s unrelenting spirit, saathins and women’s groups all over the country launched a concerted campaign to bring her justice. They filed a petition in the Supreme Court under the collective platform of Vishakha, asking the court to take action against sexual harassment faced by women in the workplace. The result was the Supreme Court judgment of 1997, popularly known as the Vishakha guidelines.

According to the Supreme Court guidelines, sexual harassment includes any unwelcome physical contact or advances; demands or requests for sexual favours; sexually-coloured remarks; displays of pornography; other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

The judgment created mandatory sexual harassment prevention guidelines for the workplace, applicable all over India. All employers or responsible heads of institutions must institute certain rules of conduct and take preventive measures to stop sexual harassment in the workplace. The guidelines direct employers to set up complaints committees within the organization, through which women can make their complaints heard. These complaints committees must be headed by women, and at least half its members should be women. To prevent undue pressure from within the organization, the committee should include a third-party representative from a non-governmental organization or other individual, conversant with the issue of sexual harassment.

The National Human Rights Commission took up the issue and consulted with government departments, private institutions/agencies as well as NGOs with a view to set up a complaint mechanism. The Commission supervised the implementation of the guidelines and the norms of the Supreme Court and now has the compliance report from all the States and the Union Territories.

India developing first anti-sexual harassment law

ndia’s government is tackling criticism on all sides while trying to create its first-ever legislation to stop sexual harassment at work.

The proposed law aims to put an end to everything form dirty jokes to physical abuse. However, some critics say the law is too flimsy while others say it’s open to abuse.

The proposed law, which parliament will review when it resumes later this month, states “gestures of a sexual nature whether verbal, textual, physical, graphic or electronic” are “unwelcome conduct.”

However, the law would only apply to women working in the organized sector, which includes factories, hotels, airlines, textile mills, parts of the farm sector and offices.

Of India’s hundreds of millions of working women, only 1.5 million are considered part of this formal sector.

August 2, 2007

The majority (89 per cent) of the 270 million workers in India’s unorganized sector are women and this law wouldn’t afford them any protections, said Jaya Arunachalam, a prominent Indian feminist.

While the law won’t cover all working women, sexual harassment is rife in India’s organized sector. In 2005, Indian air force pilot Anjali Gupta was court-martialed for misconduct after she accused three superiors of sexually harassing her. The year before, three trainees were fired when they levelled similar charges.

The proposal would offer victims leave from work, transfers if they wish and compensation from money deducted from the salaries of their abusers.

Men’s rights groups, including the Save Family Foundation and the Protect Indian Family group, say that the law would open to rampant misuse and that some women would exploit the legislation to further their career.