How the city must deal with sex


This is Nargis. It was someone we knew. Someone we worked with. So when we created this mascot, we thought we will call her Nargis, after the young girl we knew who worked at a news television station in New Delhi. Well, not quite New Delhi, actually her office was in Noida. Next a lung-searing car market. One of the worst parts of the satellite town. Yes, we also remembered the genteel actress by the same name.

Nargis lives, still does, in east Delhi. Across the Yamuna, across the area called Shahdara. Nargis travels by bus and by metro, touched and taunted, often, at every stop. We could go on and tell the tale of her humiliation but you already know all of that, don’t you?

Instead, shall we talk about something else?

Let’s talk about sex and the city in 2012. 2011, so many have told us, was the year of the protester, the year of the common man, the year of the citizen. Some of the protests were for democracy, against corruption (sometimes called by that gardening phrase ‘graft’), against human rights abuses, against dictators, against Wall Street, for main street but in it all the where was the woman?

In each case, from the rape and harassment of women in libidinous Libya to women employees as some of the first collateral damage (or ever reinforced glass ceilings) during a recession, one half of humanity faces the brunt of most crisis.

In India, not the least by the very act of stepping outside the home each day. Or even by staying in.

Every statistic shows that crime against women, whether it is domestic violence or harassment and violence on the streets is rising steadily in India. Even the new year partying headlines this year was all about how a bunch of goons tried to abduct a woman outside a mall in New Delhi enraged at (guess?) a club that refused to let them in.

What kind of a emerging superpower are we that we cannot protect women when they step out of the house?

What kind of trillion dollar economy are we that in the capital of the country rape and molestation cases have rised by around 800 percent in the last 40 years?

Last year was the year of the SlutWalk in India, a good initiative by a handful of college students and yet it is not enough to walk once in a while – we must now truly walk the talk.

Last year we worked to create an ecosystem using technology and social networking that enables women to seek protecting using technology more effectively.

Created by the mobile VAS or value-added-services major CanvasM, the Fight Back women’s safety SOS mobile app is now ready and available for download on http://www.whypoll.org.

At a touch of a button, it sends out SOS-s to 5 pre-selected mobile phone numbers, 5 email addresses and updates the Facebook status of the user. Its one way of reaching out for help, swiftly, and quickly aids investigation because it points out exactly where the incident happened through GPS or satellite tracking.

But this year there has to be more. A fight back needs to be a daily, routine build-up and not a one-off affair. That our cities are unsafe is common knowledge but how do we use citizen technology better to make things more effective, more responsive, more swift?

We are looking at one big idea,

We need to look at our urban maps carefully and see what are the sites of violence? Often you will realise that there are recurring hotspots. These need to be pointed out. Who is going to point them out?

You will.

It is actually quite simple.

If you have ever felt harassed or threatened somewhere, and you are not going to the police (which you should), come to  www.whypoll.org and report the incident.  All you need to do is tell us what happened and where it happened, and this will be reflected on the Unsafe Map, while you will remain ANONYMOUS.

How does this work?

The more incidents are reported – there are massive under reporting (70, even 80 percent of the incidents never get reported) at this point in India – the more there will be pressure to secure those places.

Remember after Nelson Mandela Marg, in south Delhi, and in front of the toniest mall, DLF Emporio, in India, appeared on the Unsafe Map list, there are now police pickets on both ends of the long, dimly lit road.

We  need many many more such reports so that we can develop better, more effective maps. It’s FREE and all you need to do to go and report is log on to http://www.whypoll.org.

Also, there are even simpler ways – you can post the incident on the Facebook wall of Whypoll or Twitter with the hashtag #FB (for Fight Back). Anything with #FB on it and we will spot. All you need to do is put the incident – time – place and we will put it on the map. You will remain ANONYMOUS.

Help us map India in a different way. This is the topography of safety for women.


























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