According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 3 women worldwide have been sexually assaulted.
In the United States alone, there are over 200,000 sexual assaults a year. That’s roughly an assault every 2 minutes. Of those assaults, over half are never reported to police, and over 97 percent of rapists never serve jail time.
In an apparent response to the December 16th gang rape that occurred on a bus in India, and resulted in the death of the 23-year-old victim, the Indian Centre for Development of Advanced Computing is creating plans for a new device they hope could reduce these kind of crimes.
The Centre, which is a division of the national Department of Electronics and Information Technology, recently unveiled an initiative to develop a wristwatch that could increase women’s safety by sending an alert to the local police.
The wrist-worn device would be able to send an alert text message to authorities, and pre-selected family and friends, at the push of a button. This way, if a woman is walking alone at night, or in broad daylight for that matter, and feel that they are in danger, the watch notifies the proper authorities while also providing a pinpoint location through a built-in GPS system. Additionally, a video recording system uses a camera on the watch to begin filming when the button is pushed. The video can run for up to 30 minutes, and could ultimately help identify any potential suspects.
Kapil Sibal, the information technology minister, said earlier this week that the Indian government would work to have a prototype for the device by mid-year. If the prototype proves successful, it is likely that the state-run telecom company ITI Ltd. would work to develop two relatively low-cost versions for mass production, costing roughly $20 and $50 each.
Women’s safety advocates aren’t convinced the new device will be effective. While it will provide an easier means to alert the authorities, there is still the problem of response time and a general reluctance, especially in India, to pursue sexual assault cases.
Will this new device replace pepper spray or other self-defense aids? Most likely not. While it is good to see a government attempting everything and anything if it might help reduce sexual assaults even slightly, there are still some clear hurdles to the practicality of such a device. And, unfortunately, it seems that these small strides only come in the wake of a tragedy, which is certainly not unique to India.
But, maybe this new watch will be a step in the right direction. It’s only a small, responsive measure, as opposed to a proactive plan, but there is potential for others to expand upon and enhance the idea. With sexual assault posing such a broad and far-reaching threat, it’s necessary for more governments to sponsor efforts to help protect their citizens. Hopefully, this new approach will eventually offer a greater degree of safety for women, and also men, the world over.
(The watches shown above are only samples of what it could look like, not actual prototypes.)