Women walking down the streets of cities in Bangladesh face a daily onslaught of sexual harassment. Called "eve teasing,” women are constantly told by men to adjust their clothing or headgear, and must deal with sexually suggestive remarks, groping, and more serious sexual assaults. According to a study done by the United Nations, 4.1 percent of men in rural Bangladesh and 9.5 percent of men in urban Bangladesh admitted to having raped a woman. About 89 percent of urban Bangladeshi men answered agree or strongly agree to the statement, “if a woman doesn't physically fight back, it's not rape.”
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Now a smartphone app, Protibadi (meaning “one who protests” in Bengali), has been created to help the female population in Bangladesh avoid sexual harassment. It has an on-screen button that, if pressed, turns the phone into a rape alarm, and sends text messages to the woman's emergency contacts with her location, saying that she needs help. Then, the incident data from all users is collected and collated to create a heat map showing the areas where harassment is at its worst. In addition, the user can annotate the data with a brief blog post about the type of harassment they experienced. The creators spoke to female students at three different universities in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, in order to tailor the app to their needs. Women who signed up to try the app said they felt safer having it installed on their phone, and their feedback is being used to continue to develop it.
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But Bangladesh isn’t the only place women are harassed—one in six females in the U.S. has experienced rape or attempted rape, according to the National Violence Against Women Survey. The silver lining: Teams at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, North South University, and Cornell hope to expand the app to other countries. While changing male behavior is the real solution, we are excited about this effort to keep women safe.