Pinning Women's Safety to a Map

Published: 24th November 2014 06:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th November 2014 06:17 AM   |  A+A-


CHENNAI: ‘Nine reported incidents of misbehaviour in Thousand Lights’, ‘two in Thirumurthi Nagar’, ‘red dots near Fort St George, T Nagar, Madhya Kailash’ — indications likes these with crowdsourcing and technology on websites and apps, are becoming popular as safety maps for women.

With safety scores and anonymous reports, these apps allow women to check about an unknown area they plan visiting. “One of the main things we wanted to do using these mapping systems is to draw the attention away from the ‘victim’ to the safety of the place where the incident happened,” says Elsa D’silva, co-founder and managing director of, a website that maps crimes against women across India. The focus therefore shifts from what the woman was wearing to what could be done in that location to prevent such incidents. Going in line with recent judgments that have widened the scope of sexual abuse, these categories are not restricted to just physical abuses but include ogling, taking photos, catcalls. Some apps like ‘Safetipin’ also look into factors like street lighting, diversity of crowd and presence of police booths.

Since women are often wary of approaching the police, especially if the crime is not rape per se, these options where in they can send in reports by sms and mail are hassle free. 

“Even in the case of rape, the only cases that get attention are the so called ‘abnormal’ cases like when the attack is especially gruesome, or if the victim is a child or an elderly woman for example. Many instances of groping and eve teasing go unreported,” says Elsa.

The data in different cities has shown different trends. For instance, while in certain cities the incidents were high outside schools or colleges, in Chennai, the instances were higher in public transport, and there were many reports of indecent exposure by men.

“The intervention therefore can never be the same in every city,” she says.

The group has worked with volunteers in Delhi and Mumbai on campaigns like studying urban planning or street lighting proposals, although it is yet to start similar initiatives in Chennai.

As part of the Safetipin project, audits were conducted in various areas of Chennai based on a wide range of parameters.  “The app is really helpful in the sense that people will be able to immediately see if a particular place is safe, in terms of the usual parameters we associate with safety. So, say if a particular street has a red score, then it can be assumed that it might be deserted or will not have sufficient lights to go about walking at night,” says Janane V, who volunteered with the project.

Linked with Facebook and Twitter, and designed interactively, these apps hope to be a part of allowing women to speak out.


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