In the Indian state of Odisha, the state government estimates that around 60 per cent of sexual assaults against women go unreported. Odisha is one of the few Indian states to even bother to estimate this figure: most release estimates for unreported rapes, but the problem of other types of sexual and domestic abuse goes largely untackled.
For Joydeep Nayak, the head of the state’s police human rights unit, part of the problem lies in the practical barriers preventing women from reporting assault and harassment. Last year he told Reuters: “In India you will hardly find a woman going to the police station." Add to this the likelihood that an abuser may be a husband or a relative, and an undetected visit to the station becomes virtually impossible.
So, spurred on by reports of the gang-rape and death of a Delhi woman in Deceber 2012, Nayak came up with a solution, in the form of what looks like a police-sponsored ATM machine.
The ICLIK, developed by the Odisha government and OCAC, a local computer company, allows women to log a report of assault or harassment while appearing to visit a bank machine. The machine is located inside a Bank of Baroda indoor ATM area in Bhubaneswar, the state capital, and looks like this:
It operates in three languages – English,Hindi, and Oriya, a Indo-Aryan language used across Odisha. Users start by choosing a category of assault:
They then leave further details, an address and phone number by typing on the screen, scanning a written report or recording an oral message. The information is sent directly to the local police control room, for officers to investigate. ("Eve-teasing", by the way, is a term generally used for street harassment or assault, which could be verbal, physical or both.)
The machine's location in an ATM area means it's open 24 hours a day, and is under the watchful eye of a security guard. Since its introduction in January 2014, the ICLIK has reportedly received around five reports a day, with harassment being the most commonly reported crime.
The Odisha government plans to open more kiosks around the state, and Reuters reported in November that police authorities in other Indian cities have also shown interest. More than anything, this widespread interest in the technology shows a will among police and local government to break down a culture of silence around assault and harassment. That can only be a good thing.