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India mandates panic button on all phones to help keep women safe

India mandates panic button on all phones to help keep women safe


Regulations will go into effect next year, according to telecommunications ministry

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All mobile phones sold in India will be required to have a panic button as of next year, the country's telecommunications ministry announced this week, as part of an effort to enhance safety for women. As Bloomberg reports, the order requires handset makers to implement an emergency feature that could be activated by holding down the numbers 5 or 9 on a keypad. The function will be mandatory on all phones by January 1st, 2017, while GPS navigation systems will be mandatory on all devices by 2018.

Women's safety in India has drawn worldwide attention following reports of gang rapes and other forms of violence. There were more than 330,000 reported cases of violence against women in 2014, according to government statistics, up 9 percent from the previous year. The issue has spurred some companies to develop apps and services that make it easier for women to contact emergency services. India's minister for women and child development, Maneka Gandhi, pushed for mandated panic buttons last year.

"Technology is solely meant to make human life better and what better than using it for the security of women," Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a statement.

It's not yet clear which emergency services would be contacted through the new panic button feature. India has no national, 911-type system, but instead has four different numbers for various services. Last month, officials said that a centralized emergency number, 112, would be introduced this year.