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Friday, December 16, 2016

Punjab to Combat Women Harassment Through Technology

Women will soon be able to use a smartphone application to report harassment along with their exact geographic location to the police.

An android application is being developed by the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) in collaboration with the Punjab Commission on Status of Women to help report and combat harassment faced by women across the province.

Through the application, women can notify the Police Integrated Command, Control and Communication (PPIC3) officials about the kind of harassment they are facing along with their exact geographic location. The officials will then dispatch a team of first responders to immediately tackle the situation. The first responders of this application will be the Dophin Force, Police Response Unit and Police Stations Beat Officers.

Women’s harassment includes, but is not limited to domestic, workplace or public place harassment.

The application will be used for two purposes: to create awareness about harassment and to help victims of it. It will consist of two to three modes including a panic button for emergency situations. Phone calls generated from the application will be directed to the 15 helpline where a special desk has been designated to answers the calls. These operators have undergone special training to effectively deal with cases of various forms of harassment. “Definitions of what constitutes harassment and what does not will be built-into the application so apart from helping out the citizens, we can also educate them,” says Shamsher Haider, Deputy Chief System Integration at the PSCA. The punishments for these crimes are in sync with Federal and Provincial legislature.

However, while the application aims to make it easier for women to report harassers, the officials have not mentioned how the law enforcement agencies will be sensitized to ensure that female harassment cases are dealt with delicately and adequately. “We already have laws where women can report abuse and assault, but the process of filing that FIR, or even stepping into the police station, means preparing yourself for a character assassination first,” says Sadia Khatri, Founder of the women empowerment initiative “Girls at Dhabas”. When reports of harassment / assault do come in, the very officials dealing with the reports turn to the survivor (usually a woman) first, trying to find a reason to blame her for what she had no control over. It’s rare for authorities to focus their investigation on the aggressor — esp until media and activists make some noise.”

The application, being developed by Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) IT Department will be launched by the end of December, 2016.

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