App to keep women safe from sexual harassment launched in Malaysia


Victims and witnesses of sexual harassment often don't report or do anything about it because of fear, lack of protection or supportive law, or no specialised facilities for reporting. Photo: Pixabay

In conjunction with the Safe City Campaign, Red Dot Foundation (Global) in collaboration with Engender Consultancy and Sisterhood Alliance, is launching the Safe City mobile app with upgraded features to help keep women safe in Malaysian cities.

The Safe City mobile app, now available in Malaysia, enables anyone who experiences or witnesses an incident of sexual harassment to report it anonymously and receive guidance on what to do and where to get help.

Engender Consultancy sexual harassment lead consultant Betty Yeoh is also one of the founding members of All Action Women's Society (Awam) Photo: FilepicEngender Consultancy sexual harassment lead consultant Betty Yeoh is also one of the founding members of All Action Women's Society (Awam) Photo: FilepicA study by Engender Consultancy and Sisterhood Alliance reveals that nearly half (46.6%) of the victims of sexual harassment don’t report or do anything about it.

“Often victims don’t take action because of fear, lack of protection or supportive law, or no specialised facilities for reporting, says Engender sexual harassment lead consultant Betty Yeoh.

“Victims also fear being blamed for what happened: ‘Why is she dressed that way? Why is she out so late at night?’ are often the first questions in one’s mind whenever a victim comes forward, ” she adds.

“Bystander support is also a very rare thing because people are naturally self-protective. They don’t want to get involved because they feel it’s not their problem, it’s too troublesome or they may get injured in the process, ” says Yeoh.

One of the ways to address these issues is through the anonymity offered by the Safe City mobile app.

Power in numbers

The Safe City app crowdsources the experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. Since it was first started in Dec 2012, in India, it has become the largest crowd map on gender violence and sexual harassment in Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria and Nepal.

“It all began eight years ago when a young girl, Jyoti Singh, was gang raped on a bus in New Delhi, and she died of her brutal injuries, ” says Red Dot Foundation founder and ceo ElsaMarie D’Silva who is based in Mumbai, India.

The incident prompted D’Silva to quit her job in aviation and start an organisation to help victims of sexual violence.

“What happened to Jyoti Singh made me think about the issue of gender-based violence and sexual harassment which is so pervasive in society, yet often nobody does anything about it," says D’Silva.

Elsa Marie D'SIlva is the founder and ceo of Red Dot Foundation which developed the Safe City mobile app. Photo: Red Dot FoundationElsa Marie D'SIlva is the founder and ceo of Red Dot Foundation which developed the Safe City mobile app. Photo: Red Dot Foundation

Safe City was launched 10 days after the gang rape and its purpose was to make the issue visible by encouraging anonymous reporting of sexual and gender based violence.

“Not many girls or women go to the authorities to officially make that complaint. As a result, the issue becomes invisible because there is a lack of data. But it doesn’t reflect the size and nature of the problem because of the under representation, ” says D’Silva.

“That’s why this platform is so important - to give women and girls a means to report that sexual harassment anonymously - because they don’t feel safe or protected if they were to report it officially and are deterred from doing so, ” she adds.

The Safe City app allows victims or witnesses to report incidents of Sexual Harassment anonymously.The Safe City app allows victims or witnesses to report incidents of Sexual Harassment anonymously.

In the last eight years, the platform has evolved to incorporate many of the suggestions received from the public, she reveals.

With the recent launch of its updated version in Malaysia, members of the public from anywhere in the country can now report incidents of sexual harassment and gender violence through the app.

The victim or witness can feel safe in making the report because it’s private: no personal information is collected. It’s also user-friendly and takes less than five minutes to fill up.

The Safe City app is simple and easy to use.The Safe City app is simple and easy to use.

The platform is also intuitive because not only can the victim or witness file the report, it also offers useful information they may need such as hospitals and police stations near them, and even shows them on Google maps where to find it.

The only information collected are demographic details such as age and gender.

Patterns and trends

Essential information are the location, time of day and day of week, of the incident.

“This will give us a pattern on how sexual harassment happens, for example during the day in the city, but during the night in the suburbs,” explains D’Silva.

Location is very important to determine patterns and trends in sexual harassment. Location is very important to determine patterns and trends in sexual harassment.

There are categories for selection (ie multiple choice) because sometimes victims or witnesses don’t have the vocabulary for what happened, or are just not in the right frame of mind to express it at that moment.

For some victims, it’s a step to healing to make the report, to tell someone what happened even if it’s anonymously, says D’Silva.

“Some have come forward to report what happened 20 years ago. It’s the first time that they’ve told someone about it, when reporting on the app, ” she adds.

The data on the map is open source (made freely available to the public) so women have the necessary information to protect themselves.

Data on sexual harassment incidents in Mumbai, India, where the app was created by Red Dot Foundation.Data on sexual harassment incidents in Mumbai, India, where the app was created by Red Dot Foundation.

“For example, if there are cases of groping at a particular place, then women would be better prepared to protect themselves there. Instead of freezing up from shock if something happens, they would be more alert and watchful. They can also have their pepper spray or alarm ready, ” she says.

“The platform takes it from individual accounts to trends and patterns of sexual harassment emerging from that data. It shows a pattern or trend emerging in a particular location - so that the authorities can do something about it, such as increasing police patrols in that area, ” says D’Silva.

Having the right data prompts the necessary action and even provides proof that a standalone sexual harassment legislation is required, she concludes.

For more info, visit: safecity.in/

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