Indian Government’s Rape Prevention ‘Wristwatch’ Is Kinda, Sorta a Step in the Right Direction

The Indian government needed an answer for the country's sexual assault problem, so it turned to the miracle of modern global positioning technology with the development of a wrist watch equipped with GPS and a distress button. When activated, the watch would send texts to the wearer's family and friend, and also begin automatically recording video.

India's information technology minister Kapil Sibal announced the project create this new rape deterrent a month after the brutal rape and murder of a young medical student in Delhi, an event that set off a wave of outraged protests across the country. The watch is not a unique tech-based solution in the fight to prevent sexual assault (Facebook and Twitter have been used to track assault everywhere from Syria to Steubenville), and, despite its good intentions, it's also not drawing high praise from activists in India who say that the country needs to first address the apparent apathy police and government officials have shown sexual assault cases over the years

The Daily Beast's Nina Strochlic reports that, although activists such as Rape Foundation founder and president Gail Abarbanel don't reject the positive potential that such technology has to fight sexual assault, the GPS watch that the Indian government is currently developing would function "more like a ‘rape progress report' alert" (which sounds nightmarish) than a preventative tool. According to Abarbanel, a better alternative might be for the Indian government to, oh, I don't know, focus its rape prevention efforts on men:

In so many of these situations, rapes could be prevented but not by the women who's being sexually assaulted. Everything that's ever been promoted to prevent rape focuses on the victim.

Mobile technology can certainly play a big role in combatting sexual assault. The Rape Foundation itself has partnered with the tech firm Possible to develop an app called "Safebook," which would shift the burden of assault prevention onto the friend, bystander, or witness. The dismal reality is that, though the GPS watch sounds like it could be a helpful tool in preventing assault, it probably would have been little help in a sudden violent attack such as the Delhi bus rape. Besides, says Dr., Director of Centre For Social Research Ranjana Kumari, echoing Abarbanel, "skepticism" about such technology does not arise over its effectiveness, "it instead arises over the will of our enforcers."

That would be the Indian government and police force, institutions that have been historically disinclined to investigate and prosecute sexual assault in a responsible way. Until attitudes about sexual assault change and the focus in rape prevention shifts from victim to attacker, any technological tool to combat sexual assault will remain imperfect.

Can a Wrist Watch Really Cure India's Rape Problem? [TDB]