India’s anti-rape underwear a mask to a larger issue

Three Indian engineering students have created the Society Harnessing Equipment (S.H.E.), a type of lingerie designed to protect Indian women from the frequent crime of sexual assault.

The lingerie, designed like a nightgown, releases a 3,800-kilovolt shock capable of knocking down assaulters if pressure sensors around the breast and underwear are activated. The women wearing the garment would not be harmed due to protective insulation. The students have also equipped the outfit with a GPS and alert system that contacts police if the pressure sensors go off, allowing them to arrive to the scene quickly.

Rimpi Tripathi, Niladri Basubal and Manisha Mohan created the lingerie after the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a moving bus in New Delhi last December. Though the innovative lingerie could be helpful and protect Indian women from sexual assault, it raises the question of why sexual violence against women is so prevalent.

The invention of this “anti- rape underwear” is a mask toŠ—åa larger problem affectingŠ—å1 in 3 women worldwide. As a women and gender studies student at DePaul, it angers and frustrates me that women must resort to literally wearing armor in order to protect themselves from an attack.

How do we bring an end to the rape culture that permeates our communities?

One solution is through education on sexual violence not only in college classes, but in high schools and middle schools as well. Discussions would lead to an outline of behavior that is not tolerable. Furthermore, the exploration of the traumatic effects that result from such violence would create an understanding of why it is intolerable, as well as lay a foundation of empathy for others.

It is also the responsibility of lawmakers to create regulations that protect women, and it is the responsibility of public officers to enforce these rules, justly punishing culprits. It is not enough to imprison a criminal of sexual violence. They must be educated on the severity of their actions, why it is not acceptable and the lasting effects of their crime rather than wait for their sentence to be completed.

Though the anti-rape underwear is designed for situations where strangers are the assaulters, most of the people that commit crimes of sexual violence know the victim/survivor in some way. In cases like these there is a need for legal consent from both parties when sex is in the equation. Like we saw with the Steubenville rape case, being drunk or unconscious does not mean “yes,” and it certainly does not make it OK for someone to take advantage of that person.

The question of whether both parties are comfortable and agree that sex can happen is a must. Without permission it is, indeed, rape. There must also be a shift in the view of the victim/survivor. Society must protect and support those affected by sexual violence and believe their stores instead of dismissing them as false. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only 54 percent of instance of sexual violence are reported. We owe it to the brave women and men who have come forward to listen to their stories and take them seriously.

Shaming them into silence, telling them they are overreacting and saying they brought it on themselves, especially when alcohol is part of the situation, only dehumanizes them. It is not enough to arm oneself, but dialogue and education must continue to dismantle the house of oppression that is sexual violence.

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