India's rape epidemic leads to mandatory 'panic' buttons on all new phones

Phones

Photo via denharsh/Flickr (CC-BY)

Soon people will be able to call for help automatically.

India wants to improve safety for women, so beginning next year, all mobile phones in India must come with a panic button. Additionally, by 2018, all phones must come with GPS. 

Officials announced the new rules on Monday, Bloomberg reported. Feature phone users will have to hold down the numbers 5 and 9, while smartphone users will have a special key to activate the emergency system. 

India doesn't currently have a system similar to the 911 emergency system in the U.S., but it's reportedly implementing a nationwide emergency response number (112) in the coming months. 

Communications and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad explained that the button would alert authorities and designated emergency contacts that an individual is in danger. 

The emergency feature is a response to violence against women as awareness around the issue has grown in recent years. In India, there is one rape every 30 minutes, and attacks like the fatal gang rape of a young woman on a bus in Delhi and the rape of a woman by her Uber driver underscore the violence women face and pressure officials to provide safety and support to women in the country. 

Uber added a panic button to its app after the incident, and as Mashable notes, a handful of other apps and wearables offer similar emergency features in India. 

H/T Bloomberg

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