Concerns over India’s rape statistics has caused Uber to update their mobile app:
It’s a sad day when a company as venerable (and new) as Uber decides they need to update their app to protect their female users against rape in India. India’s rape statistics have been a great concern to both the government and to travelers for a number of years as rapes and gang rapes of women have been reported in almost every state in India.
Rape and groping is often denied by police, as in the most recent cases (caught on video) on New Year’s Eve, 2016 in Bangalore, India. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyGqX_j6hWU and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-794WAkBwU.)
Uber itself became a part of the problem in December, 2014 when a woman alleged rape by a New Delhi driver. The trial of the driver, 32-year-old Shiv Kumar Yadav, is ongoing. New Delhi is of special concern to both local women and travelers as more women were raped in Delhi than in any other of India’s large cities in 2012, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau in its latest figures.
The report said 5,194 cases of crimes against women (not just rape) were reported from Delhi during 2012, up from 4,489 cases in 2011. In 2013, those numbers almost doubled again. Madhya Pradesh reported the maximum rapes in 2013 among all other states with 4,335.
Unfortunately due to India’s many cultures emphasis on shame and conservative, male-preferential treatment (where women are often blamed for the attacks) many more incidents of rape and other crimes against women go unreported.
Uber’s new “Send SOS” button is just one of a number of safety factors they are implementing in order to assure riders safety. In addition, Uber states: We launched a number of key safety initiatives in India, including re-verification of all driver partners with the police, additional background screening with First Advantage, and the establishment of a dedicated local Incident Response Team to handle critical situations.
If “Send SOS” is pressed, the button will pull up a prompt to call local authorities, as well as send a status update to up to five emergency contacts (users select those contacts). All five will receive a link to view your trip progression in real time, according to Uber, as well as the driver’s photo and car information. Uber plans to roll out similar features in other areas and cities soon, although today, the feature is only available in India and only on Android although iOS should be available to download by the time you read this post. More at Uber.
India has been scrambling to reassure tourists since 2013, especially female travelers, after a number of reported cases of violence against foreign women within India, causing foreign travel to plunge significantly in 2013-2014. In 2015, India again became front page news after news reports of a Japanese tourist being held for 12 days and raped as well as a case of a mentally-impaired woman from Nepal.
Travelers are warned that local offers of assistance are very friendly, and offered in many foreign languages. Perpetrators don’t take money the first time. But then later, they introduce tourists to friends who cheat them. They take them out to eat or offer to take them sightseeing. (Travel warnings after photo below…)
The U.S. State Department has issued the following warning:
Besides terrorism (including disputed borders with Pakistan) and religious violence, crime and sexual assault are of concern (check for latest updates at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/india.html):
“Travelers should be aware that there have been reported cases of sexual assault, including rape, of U.S. citizens traveling throughout India. U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India.”
“U.S. citizens, particularly women, are cautioned not to travel alone in India. Women traveling in India are advised to respect local dress and customs. Customary everyday dress for Indian women throughout the country is conservative, and even more so in non-urban areas, with women wearing clothing that covers their legs and shoulders. Exceptions are vacation resorts catering to foreign clientele and some neighborhoods of the major cities of New Delhi and Mumbai. Western women, especially those of African descent, continue to report incidents of verbal and physical harassment by individuals and groups of men. Known locally as “Eve-teasing,” these incidents of sexual harassment can be quite frightening and can quickly cross the line from verbal to physical. Sexual harassment can occur anytime or anywhere, but most frequently has happened in crowded areas such as in market places, train stations, buses, and public streets. The harassment can range from sexually suggestive or lewd comments to catcalls to outright groping. Following the December 2012 brutal gang-rape and subsequent death of a young Indian woman in New Delhi, the Government of India has focused greater attention on addressing issues of gender violence. One outcome has been greater reporting of incidences of sexual assault country-wide, and Indian authorities report rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India. Among large cities, Delhi experienced the highest number of reported crimes against women. Although most victims have been local residents, recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas across India underline the fact that foreign women are at risk and should exercise vigilance.
Women should observe stringent security precautions, including avoiding use of public transport after dark without the company of known and trustworthy companions, restricting evening entertainment to well-known venues, and avoiding isolated areas when alone at any time of day. Keep your hotel room number confidential and make sure hotel room doors have chains, deadlocks, and peep holes. When possible, travel around the area with groups of friends rather than alone. In addition, only hire reliable cars and drivers and avoid traveling alone in hired taxis, especially at night. Use taxis from hotels and pre-paid taxis at airports rather than hailing them on the street. If you encounter threatening situations, call “100” for police assistance (“112” from mobile phones).”
The Foreign Office (U.K.) has this to say to their citizens (Always check for latest updates at http://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india/safety-and-security):
“Women should use caution when travelling in India. Reported cases of sexual assault against women and young girls are increasing; recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas and cities show that foreign women are also at risk. British women have been the victims of sexual assault in Goa, Delhi, Bangalore and Rajasthan and women travellers often receive unwanted attention in the form of verbal and physical harassment by individuals or groups of men. Serious sexual attacks involving Polish, German and Danish women travellers were reported in 2014. In January 2015, a Japanese woman was kidnapped and sexually assaulted close to Bodh Gaya and a Russian woman was seriously assaulted by an auto-rickshaw driver in the Vasant Kunj area of New Delhi. Women travellers should exercise caution when travelling in India even if travelling in a group.
If you are a woman travelling in India you should respect local dress codes and customs and avoid isolated areas, including beaches, when alone at any time of day. See these travel tips for women travellers.
Avoid travelling alone on public transport, or in taxis or auto-rickshaws, especially at night. If you have to use a taxi get them from hotel taxi ranks and use pre-paid taxis at airports. Try to avoid hailing taxis on the street. If you’re being collected at the airport by a hotel driver make sure they have properly identified themselves before you set off. If you are the victim of abuse call 100 for police assistance (112 from mobile phones).
If you are the victim of a sex crime see Rape and Sexual Assault Abroad.“