Seeking to give girls and women in rural areas a platform to raise voice against sexual harassment, a mobile app has been developed by a group of city-based activists, for such survivors, who otherwise do not have much access to social media.
The app is slated to be officially launched in Patna on Wednesday, in the presence of renowned international activist Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-Free World and its Code Blue Campaign, and noted lawyer Indira Jaisingh, among others, Patna-based Gender Alliance, said.
Bandhan Tod 2.0 app is an upgrade of its earlier version, which only catered to cases of child marriage and domestic violence. The main, new additional feature of the app is "Chuppi Tod" for grievances related to sexual harassment.
"We have now completely revamped our old app, and especially after the #MeToo movement in the country, so many people opened up about their previous cases, on Twitter and Facebook. But, that is only a very select urban sample of the cases, such incidents are also happening in rural areas," a senior official of the NGO told news agency PTI.
The new app seeks to give girls and women in rural areas "a voice, a platform to vent their angst and frustration" when they feel helpless, she said.
"But, how many in rural areas are social media-savvy or use Twitter or Facebook, the way an urban population does. So, we felt the need to overhaul the app, and thus Chuppi Tod feature was born. As it was in the old app for child marriage cases, a sexual harassment victim can raise an SOS through a button," she said.
The official said the app, presently available in Hindi only, can be downloaded on a smart phone, adding that smart phone penetration in rural areas too will assist the "outreach".
The NGO also plans to launch an English version of the app to target non-Hindi-speaking states, another official added.
"The Chuppi Tod feature has three components, a user can discuss an issue in a public forum; message privately after which a counsellor will call her back and offer guidance; or raise SOS, which then comes to us," she added.
"We will then first vet the allegation, and then actions accordingly, which could either be a legal intervention or counselling in person or connecting her with the National Women Commission," the official said.
The Gender Alliance official said its team has met with the Bihar police chief who has encouraged its use to address such cases, adding that seven cases have already been reported through Chuppi Tod, even before the formal launch of the app.
The app will also enable users to know what constitutes sexual harassment so that they can be alert in such situations.
"People using it can also take a quiz to see if they have understood the issue," she said.
The Bandhan Tod app, launched in 2017, in its previous avatar had helped save a 13-year-old schoolgirl in a village in Bihar's Darbhanga district from becoming a victim of child marriage, after she had raised an alert.
The girl, Rinki from Benipur block, about 30 km out of Darbhangha district headquarters, was later felicitated by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for bravely resisting the evil practice.