Violence Against Women: “There’s an ‘App’ for that!”

In India, Whypoll, a citizens’ network group, has developed a new kind of ‘app’ – the FightBack app, aimed at giving women the ability to report crimes and call for help in the country’s dangerous regions and cities.

Hindol Sengupta and Shweta Punj, the two journalists who founded Whypoll in 2008, both grew up in Delhi, the country’s capital, and know how prevalent violence is against women. Therefore, this ‘app’ helps women to report harassment or violent crimes, which many people believe are significantly underreported to police officials. One statistic shows that more than 500 complaints of harassment were not reported by women in this year alone. Why? Women are reluctant to go to the police station to report these crimes, out of fear of the police or family pressures.

Although it is not a complete solution to the ongoing problem of violence against women, FightBack will give women a forum to report these crimes and hopefully promote clearer, more accurate crime statistics so that the government and various agencies can focus their resources in a more efficient, preventative manner. Furthermore, this app gives women and men alike the chance to get involved in the fight against these oppressive crimes and the offenders.

FightBack is currently being tested by a small group of users. A great feature of the FightBack app is that users can program up to five telephone numbers to whom an emergency text message can be sent with GPS information in the event that they find themselves in a precarious situation. Many other countries, such as Egypt, Haiti, and Liberia, are using apps similar to FightBack so that users can report crimes against women as well as human rights abuses. Punj and Sengupta hope that if this app proves successful, they might be able to tackle domestic violence in the same way.

Original article from The New York Times


  1. This is a really interesting, novel idea on how to combat violence against women. It certainly seems like this is necessary given that women are underreporting crimes against them to the police. If they can’t ask the police for help, at least they would have the option to reach out to someone else.

    I do have some questions about the programs effectiveness though. I realize that most people here in America have smart phones, but I don’t know whether the same can be said for India. The fact that this is an app means that to use the program, you must have access to a smart phone. I feel like this could be a real limiting factor on the group of people who can take advantage of this. Also, while you can program the phone to call any 5 numbers, the phone doesn’t automatically report a crime to the police. I realize that some women are afraid of reporting to the police, but I feel like sending out a distress call to a friend or family member could end up putting them in harms way if they attempt to come to the rescue. I think this is a great starting point, but there are still some issues that need to be resolved.

  2. In light of the widespread violence against women in India, and undoubtedly the other countries mentioned in the article, the FightBack app is a step in the right direction in the struggle against this gender based violence. I applaud the efforts of the Whypoll founders but believe it is important for others in India to pursue ways of attacking this multifaceted issue. As the article points out, police apathy and social pressures contribute to the lack of reporting and support provided to women in India. Having routinely traveled to India throughout my life, I can say with assurance that this issue is even more prominent than the already startling numbers in the article suggest. This app will without a doubt provide women with a mechanism for aide that was not previously available, but I believe its applicability will be limited (as the article also points out). Due to the huge economic disparity prevalent throughout India, several women that are subject to violence do not have the means to access such forms of social media. It is tremendous that those who do have the means will have access, but it cannot be overlooked that there is a greater number of women who will not have such access. The violence facing these women will continue to go unreported and more importantly, they will have little access to safety (due to police apathy and lack of economic means). The success in reducing the violence will be determined by the continued efforts of individuals like the ones highlighted in this post and the ability to protect those women who are hardest to protect. It is a step in the right direction but many more need to be taken.

  3. This sounds like a great advancement for combating violence against women and other human rights abuses. However, there are some aspects of the idea that I question. For instance, you said that more than 500 complaints of harassment were not reported, for fears of police or family pressures. Do you know if this app will be anonymous reports? If so, then it will make sense, but a downside would be in women had to put input their contact information. If this was required, then I do not think the number of unreported abuses would decline very much.

    Additionally, will the reports include the names and locations of the offenders? if it is just a simple report of abuse, with no names or locations, then I fear that the number of abuses will likely not decline. However, if police or law enforcement officials know where they need to be, and who they need to be looking for, then the app will hopefully be successful.

    Overall, it seems like this new app has the possibility of being very successful, assuming certain factors. Hopefully the app will be a success in reducing violence against women and human rights abuses in the countries where it is utilized.

  4. “While the app is a great idea, the only thing that worries me is the Facebook and Twitter alert.” See:

    I agree with this statement. If the purpose of this app were to encourage reports, wouldn’t a notification on Facebook defeat the purpose? As a Facebook user, I am consciously aware all posts and ‘check ins’ that I am a part of will end up in Facebook’s ‘news feed’. Thus, a notification on Facebook will become a matter of public or rather your Facebook friends’ attention. Wouldn’t women rather call the police and report the problem privately, rather than have their report on the Facebook’s ‘news feed’?
    Is the purpose of the app then to encourage reports or calculate crime statistics?

  5. Overall, the most important aspect of this initiative is the awareness it promotes. Certainly, the economic disparities among the potential users, and those users that cannot access the social media means, may hinder the overall progress. But the best question to be answered is, “what if it DOES make an impact in the end and violence against women can be curbed even if only by a small portion?” Small successes, in this area of atrocity and violence, are successes, no matter how you slice it. Furthermore, any information that could be provided by the users as to where this violence occurs can help police officials get a clearer picture of what crime areas require more resources and security for women.

  6. Technology has brought many new ways of accomplishing everyday tasks. Why not create apps that can help stop violence. I for one wish there were more apps that could help report problems. If this app helps provide women with a way to anonymously report abuse and help them gain a voice then I think it is a great idea. I especially like the part of the app that allows the user to program it with five numbers, which would receive a text message with GPS information in case of an emergency. I think this should be standard on all phones. Many children now carry cell phones for emergencies. If these phones had app’s that allowed the child to quickly send out an emergency text message with the push of one button, parents would immediately be notified that there is a problem. Currently, phones do have GPS capabilities. Parents can track their children if they have this option. The problem is, parents might not realize there is an emergency for hours. With an app that allows children to quickly access emergency numbers, parents and police could quickly mobilize.

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