As crimes against women continue to rise in India, some entrepreneurial college students have unveiled rape deterrent clothing and footwear including anti-rape jeans, underwear and sandals. Two such designs were unveiled on Friday in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). One is a pair of sandals that is rigged to deliver a strong jolt of electric shock to any potential perpetrator, while the other is a pair of jeans that comes armed with an inbuilt button that can be triggered for help.
Computer science majors, Shalini Yadav and Rijul Pandey, both students at an engineering college in the city of Varanasi in UP, designed the zapping sandals. The shoes are able to shock any transgressors, while simultaneously sending an alert from the wearer’s cell phone to specified contacts.
Anjali Srivastava and Diksha Pathak, students at the same university, developed an electronic GPS unit, which can be sewn in to clothes, especially jeans. The device allows friends and family to pinpoint the location of the wearer, if they were to receive a signal for help through a preset text alert.
While such security measures might appear extreme, Indian women have been facing not just a rising crime rate but also increasing degrees of violence by perpetrators. The horrific 2012 gang rape and murder of a young physiotherapy intern in a moving bus in New Delhi is a shocking example that shook the world. Not only did the six men brutally beat and rape the young woman, they violated her with an iron rod and ripped out her intestines, severely damaging her abdomen and genitals. The rapists threw her and her accompanying male friend, both naked and semi-conscious out of the moving bus, and then tried to run them over. The male friend, who had been badly beaten and tied up, managed to pull them to safety. The inhumanity of the attack resulted in mass protests across the country and the institution of stronger laws against rape, and yet it appears to have done little to stem the tide of violence against women. Reports of gang rapes, acid attacks, kidnappings, and murder continue to pour in at an alarming rate.
For instance, the state of UP has seen a recent spike in such crimes, from the gang rape and lynching of two teenage cousins, to the immolation of an eight-year-old girl by two men who had a history of molesting her. The UP government has reported an 80 percent rise in the number of crimes against women in the last three years, with 736 rapes complaints being registered between January and March of this year.
However, these security-based alterations are not just being designed in the state of UP. Manisha Mohan, who is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in automobile engineering at Chennai’s SRM University, has designed anti-rape lingerie with two fellow students, Niladri Basu and Rimpi Tripathi. Chennai is a city in South India. Called SHE (Society Harnessing Equipment), the high-voltage undergarment is fitted with a pressure sensor connected to an electric circuit. When triggered, the undergarment shocks the rapist while sending a message with the victim’s location to designated people and the local police. According to Mohan, the trigger device is sheathed in a protective fabric, which insulates the wearer.
The innovative young women who have unveiled the rape deterrent clothing in India want to provide security options to those who want more than just pepper spray for protection.
Mohan, the 21-year-old developer of the bra that shocks said that she was jarred by the Delhi gang rape and felt it was her “moral responsibility” to do something to prevent such traumatic crimes.
While the youth of the country are making news for seeking solutions that can help deter crimes against women, politicians and lawmakers in India continue to make one gender-based gaffe after another. For instance, Home Minister Babulal Gaur of the state of Madhya Pradesh described rape as a social crime, which is “sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong.”
In a much-criticized speech given in April by Mulayam Singh Yadav, the former chief minister of UP asked whether rape cases should lead to hanging. According to Yadav, “Boys are boys, they make mistakes.”
Anita Shukla, a scientist at the Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya when asked about the brutal 2012 Delhi gang rape, said that when a group of men plan to rape, there was nothing a woman can do to stop it. She said, “The victim should save herself for bringing the perpetrators to book … Had the girl simply surrendered (and not resisted) when surrounded by six men, she would not have lost her intestine. Why was she out with her boyfriend at 10 pm?”
A 2013 statement released by the Islamic organization, Jamaat-E-Islami Hind called for the abolishment of coeducational facilities and demanded that women-only academic institutions be established that “prescribe sober and dignified dress for girls.”
The various remarks and observations have been received with much outrage and shock in India. However, many scholars and activists point out that such statements are evidence of the chauvinistic attitudes faced by Indian women in their public, private and professional spaces. As India grapples with gendered crimes, archaic and sometimes-misogynistic biases and expectations, and the hurdles against implementation of laws, young entrepreneurs are rushing to find other solutions, including the unveiling of rape deterrent clothing for women.
By Monalisa Gangopadhyay