I know I am making a huge statement in the title.
The 1.5 million engineering graduates India produces annually, might disagree or be angry with me for saying this.
As rape has become prevalent in our society, so has the anti-rape technological gadgets and other such inventions.
A nail polish was invented that could test spiked drinks.
An anti-rape underwear/ protective panties that would be impossible to tear off.
A colour changing drinkware of some sort.
An anti-rape line of jeans with the electronic tracker.
A napkin was invented that would hint if a drink had roofies.
Another alarm and lock underwear.
A shock inducing, police calling bra with GPRS (considering the punctuality of Indian police, I’m stumped even to comment here).
And the list goes on to include anti-rape jackets, wristwatches, apps and other so-called inventions.
Let me begin by addressing the short-sighted, individual problems and then will talk about the long ones.
First of all, drug testing nail polish, drinkware, straws, trinkets and napkins etc. are not 100% accurate, they often pass drugged drinks as clean. So they are not only unreliable but also limited to the club-going demographic of women.
And second of all, this shock-inducing bra and protective panties are harmful to the wearer herself.
The name itself made me ROFL, literally. SHE technology, Society Harnessing Equipment! Yeah, right – this is definitely an over-optimistic naive engineer’s idea, I bet society is something that can be harnessed (and pigs can fly too).
Sarcasm aside, let me begin by addressing the sentiment behind these inventions which are to do something to curb rape and contribute to women’s safety. I applaud the sentiment half-heartedly.
Why just half-heartedly you ask? Because the efforts put in these inventions are half-hearted.
In short, it is like ending world hunger with McDonald’s.
You need to realise that not all people can afford or would want to buy these so-called anti-rape products.
If you did manage to buy one and protect yourself from one attack, you’re basically saying ‘don’t rape me, rape the next one’.
Almost 70 % which is 83.3 crore Indians live in rural India. Rampant poverty and starvation is the daily life of these people. If these anti-rape inventions are, let us say, used by the urban Indians over the poverty line, who will the rape victims be? The poor rural class (reminds me of history).
Again assuming these gadgets are distributed free by courtesy of the government of India and every woman wears them, it still won’t help.
Only 10% of rapes are committed by strangers, the rest take place in home, workplaces, campuses and other trusted hangouts of the victim.
When you trust someone and are related to them or literally live with them under the same roof, what protection can you really take against them?
Since the government of India announced the ordinance of the death penalty for rapists of children under the age of 12, rapists have started lighting the bodies of victims on fire in order to destroy evidence of DNA. Three teenagers sexually assaulted in one week and then set on fire!
This is why several lawyers and activists were protesting against this death penalty ordinance, but they were instantly tagged ‘anti-nationalists‘ on my own Facebook timeline, and now here we are.
And what about child rapes? Are we going to cut open the wrists of babies now and insert microchips in order to detect physical activity?
Where does this stop? Is technology useless?
NO, absolutely not. Technology can be used to curb rape, but for that to be in effect, you’d first have to study Sociology and understand the way society works.
It is like trying to create a submarine tank without submerging it in water. No matter how great your tank is unless you understand the dynamics of the water, your invention will render useless.
Similarly, in order to invent things that would end rape, you need to understand the dynamics of the society that induces rape and enables rapists to walk away free.
Here are few suggestions that can be a starting point:
1- Create something like a national sex offenders database register. Enrol every harasser’s fingerprints, DNA, and other necessary information in there. Have it geographically segmented to people of a certain area who can see LIVE where the harassers reside. Have their information available to women who want to check if their would-be-husband is a sex offender. Have employers access this information too.
2- Develop forensic technologies that could help collect evidence of rape instead of that two-finger test and other such ridiculous practices. We need solid ways to collect undisputable evidence so that rapists can be convicted in a short amount of time.
3- Install proper street lights and CCTV’s all around the country and have proper ways to detect harassment-like behaviour and track perpetrators with the help of facial recognition technology.
4- Create another software system enrolling every human that is working with children in any capacity – teachers, nannies, rickshaw pullers, bus drivers etc. Have their information registered and only when they get a clearance that they do not have any previous records of discrepancies, allow them to work with children.
5- Enable anonymous rape reporting systems in campuses and localities where women can report about crimes without being subjected to threats and stigma in case they don’t want to report to the police yet. At least others will be alarmed, and the rapist would deter from further rapes.
Several other things can be done, but you have to understand that for rape to be curbed several elements of the society have to work together in collaboration with each other. The law enforcement, the forensic experts, the investigation teams, the judiciary, the medical professionals and psychologists and the NGOs; you need to combine forces and collaborate with them in order to understand the society and its problems. But this is the second stage; you need to begin from Sociology.
Ashton Kutcher, the Hollywood star, co-founded a tech company that works towards ending human trafficking, especially sex trafficking all over the world. That is technology applied right. His company has rescued 6000 victims yet.
You can watch his legendary speech here and get to know more about the technology they’ve created that tracks traffickers.
In the Indian society, medical and engineering professions are the cliched, most-hyped and preferred professions that every parent wants their children to pursue. Arts stream is the least preferred option for people wanting professional careers. Arts is supposedly the subject you study when you want to be a housewife or join your father’s family business. The reputation of social sciences and humanities is pathetic, and that is extremely sad. And also kind of reflective of why our masses do not understand social problems and their roots.
No wonder I see so much arrogance and pride in graduated doctors and engineers to the extent of snobbery. But you need to climb down from your ivory tower (your institutions) if you want to fix the gutter, the place you call society.
The problems of the society cannot be fixed without being a part of it.
Coming from privileged backgrounds, not bothering to study rape, creating such ‘inventions’ you are putting the onus of evading rape on women. Like the concept of self-defence classes.
No doubt you might escape a rape attack if you know self-defence, but there is no guarantee.
What if he had a gun and tied you up at gunpoint? What if he drugged you? What if there were more than one attackers? What if he knew self-defence too? What if he blackmailed you emotionally or threatened to harm a family member if you didn’t cooperate?
More importantly, what if the attacker is not a stranger but someone you know? What if he is your husband?
What if you froze at the shock of his attack and didn’t choose fight or flight either?
Clearly, the creation of these devices shows that your heart may be in the right place, but your mind isn’t. You need to learn about the power dynamics, the crime of rape itself, the strategies of rapists, the current system of the entire judiciary and law enforcement, dig for loopholes and only after studying the entire process you may touch the tip of the iceberg enough to have an idea about something.
I am not against technology, but if I am smart enough to own a ‘smartphone’, I must know that technology is merely an ‘enabler’.
How do you expect your inventions to succeed when you haven’t done your research on studying the habitat or the environment where you intend to launch your invention?
Rape is a cultural problem. The culture that tells women to stay indoors, follow the rules and wear certain kinds of clothes to prevent rape but not one message to men saying ‘women are not for your disposal or amusement’.
A rapist is not an anomaly born out of nowhere. They are born in this very society and are able to do their evil deeds because of the rape apologists in our political system who say things like ‘boys make mistakes‘ or ‘rapes are sometimes right, sometimes wrong‘ or the ultimate ‘eating chowmein causes rape‘.
In a culture like this, you need bigger inventions than GPRS, Bluetooth panty, and shock causing bra if you ever intend on curbing rape.