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Indian Women Turning to Apps to Report Harassment

Women stand at a crowded place in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, Oct. 9, 2006. Safety is the biggest concern for women using public and private transport.
Indian Women Turning to Apps to Report Harassment
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New software programs for wireless devices are helping women in India stay safe in public spaces. Developers say these apps, short for applications, make it easier for women to report harassment and get help.

A study for the Thomson Reuters Foundation shows that safety is the biggest concern for women who use public and private transportation.

Writer Sameera Khan helped prepare the book “Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets.” She told the Reuters news agency that women always have a plan of action for visiting public spaces. The plan includes what clothes to wear, what kind of transportation to take, what time to go out and whether they should travel alone or in a group.

Reported crimes up 80 percent

Indian government records show reported cases of crime against women increased by more than 80 percent between 2007 and 2016.

The deadly rape and killing of a young woman on a New Delhi bus in 2012 showed the dangers women face in India’s public spaces.

That incident led Supreet Singh of the Red Dot Foundation, a not-for-profit group, to create the SafeCity app. The app urges women in 11 Indian cities to report incidents of harassment and tell where those incidents take place.

Singh told Reuters, “We want to bridge the gap between the…reality of harassment in public spaces and what is actually being reported.”

The aim is to direct attention to the areas where crimes are being reported so that Indian officials can take action against them.

Activists say women feel most at risk on crowded buses and other public transportation, paths leading to public restrooms, underground rooms and parks.

Rights activists say social stigma tied to sexual harassment and an uncaring police reporting process results in many cases going unreported.

Apps are promising

But apps like SafeCity, My Safetipin and Himmat promise to provide privacy to women reporting crimes. They also promise to share the information collected through the app with government agencies.

Supreet Singh says SafeCity has helped “in many small ways.” She notes an increase in the number of police officials in likely crime areas and improved lighting in dark places.

Police officials in many Indian cities urge women to report crimes using the software programs. In return, officials promise to investigate those reports quickly.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

The Reuters news agency reported this story. Jonathan Evans adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in this Story

harassment – n. annoying or bothering someone in a constant or repeated way

gap – n. a space between two people or things; a missing part

actually – adv. ​in point of fact —used to suggest something unexpected​

loiter – v. to remain in an area when you do not have a particular reason to be there

stigman. an identifying mark; a sign of something

park – n. a piece of land that often includes grassland or woods and is used for public recreation purposes; a piece of ground used for recreation