Can a ‘panic button’ on a phone really help deter violence in India?
Last April India’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, announced the government’s order that by 2018 all phones include a panic button and GPS. And this February, pan-India installation of panic buttons was slated to begin. Since then, a debate has raged about whether this is really a step forward to stem the tide of violence against women and girls.
There are a host of technical and access issues, of course. Most phones in India do not include GPS. Feature phones would be reconfigured to accept a single digit ‘alert’ number. Functionality is another issue: in 2016, Indian railways installed panic buttons in the ladies compartments of trains, only for it to be jammed with false prank calls.
But more importantly, do we really need yet another commercial device which serves only to delay the actual work necessary to change male behavior? Why are we dumping yet another burden on women to ensure their own safety? Inquiring minds want to know.
This is Namita who studied with me all the time I was in India. She eventually went out on her own and is now working in a call center in Gurgaon. We got together when I was back in July. She has grown to be a delightful young woman.
Sister Suja (right) was the Sister I spent the most time with at Holy Family. I last saw her in 2015 when I traveled to see her in Punjab, where she was transferred for two years. She is now back in Najafgargh. Her laugh is better than ever.
This young woman, surrounded by her husband and in-laws, is Yogita. She studied with me and went on field trips around Dehil while I was living there. Yogita later dropped out of school. She is now married and working in a shop. Suja Sister and I visited to meet her husband and in-laws.
I brought a weaving project so the girls could make something new. It was a school holiday when I visited, so many girls are away, but those who stay at Holy Family all summer are especially interested in new activities.
In Delhi, change initiatives are going straight to the people! And what better place to start than the metro?
Photo: The Hindu, April 8, Deeksha Teri
Volunteer students from Delhi University, all men, are taking up posts at ten metro stations and talking to commuters about gender equality, patriarchy, and violence. Organised by the Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ), it’s a small but necessary start to raising awareness. Volunteers are also helping individual victims by providing a toll-free support line for help and more information.
And, near and dear to my own heart, the CHSJ is releasing a book of four plays about gender-based violence and masculinity. Thank you, theatre for social awareness and change!
Join the Ek Saath campaign, all supported by Forum to Engage Men, One Billion Rising, and the India Alliance for Gender Justice.