India’s telecommunications ministry has said all mobile phones sold in the country from 2017 must include a panic button.
It is part of a wider campaign to enhance the safety of women, in the light of growing concerns about levels of sexual violence in the country.
From 2018, phones will also have to include GPS navigation systems.
India does not have a centralised emergency number but officials are looking to introduce one this year.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, said: “Technology is solely meant to make human life better and what better than using it for the security of women?”
The National Crime Records Bureau said there were 337,922 reports of violence against women, including rape, molestation, abduction and cruelty in 2014, including 36,000 rapes, a rise of 9% on the previous year’s figures.
It is likely that the real incidence of rape is much higher than official figures suggest.
It is not yet clear how the panic button system will work but it is likely to allow customers to call the emergency services by either pressing a single button or by pressing the power button several times in succession.
Women’s safety has risen to the top of the political agenda in India since the fatal gang rape of a 23 year-old medical student on a bus in Delhi in 2012 sparked new anti-rape laws in the country.
Rape cases that have shocked India
- 21 December 2015: Seven men sentenced to death for the brutal rape and murder of a Nepalese woman who was undergoing treatment for depression
- 23 January 2014: Thirteen men held in West Bengal in connection with the gang rape of a woman, allegedly on orders of village elders who objected to her relationship with a man
- 4 April 2014: A court sentences three men to be hanged for raping a 23-year-old photojournalist in Mumbai last year
- 15 January 2014: A Danish woman is allegedly gang-raped after losing her way near her hotel in Delhi
- 17 September 2013 : Five youths held in Assam for allegedly gang-raping a 10-year-old girl
- 4 June 2013: A 30-year-old American woman gang-raped in Himachal Pradesh
- 30 April 2013: A five-year-old girl dies two weeks after being raped in Madhya Pradesh
- 16 December 2012: Student gang-raped on Delhi bus, sparking nationwide protests and outrage