I tweeted about an ATM-style machine in India a couple weeks ago that is designed to help women to report crimes of harassment and abuse. I’ve been thinking about what the implications are and what they might mean for women and since Katina prompted me, here are a few thoughts.
Inasmuch as I can tell, reporting a crime of harassment, rape, or sexual assault in any country is a terrible experience. In India, it is particularly bad for many of the reasons listed in the article: all-male police forces with little to no knowledge or training on how to work with victims, threats by family and community members–some of whom may be part of the police force–and threat of revictimization by the police themselves. There are groups and governments trying to combat this. For instance, the police force in Gujarat is experimenting with quotas for women in the police force. Other groups implement gender sensitization training.
So, a way to circumvent that process seems pretty ideal. The added bonus of being able to speak into the machine in the case of illiteracy is also pretty awesome, provided the ATM is in a safe place. My first question, though, is what happens next. The article mentioned at least one incident where an abusive husband was being pursued by the police, but are all complaints acted upon? If they are, a woman is eventually going to have to have contact with the police and potentially face those embarrassing questions, harassment, or groping mentioned in the article. Where is the change in the police force itself that makes reporting a not-quite-as-awful experience? One that might result in outcomes that actually help a victim?
Finally, it’s not clear that interaction with the police is the best way of stemming abuse. A widely circulated piece by a British-Pakistani entrepreneur last week showed how a serial abuser was welcomed back into her community even after several individuals had alleged abuse. A prison sentence likely won’t mean he can’t get a job or eat dinner with his family. Reporting abuse often means that for a woman.
Ultimately, until there is evolution in the acceptability of domestic violence and a rejection of norms that put women’s safety last, I’m not convinced that novel methods of reporting will have a great effect on the incidence of abuse, assault, and sexual harassment or the structures that support it.