India has announced new rules that require all mobile phones to have a “panic button,” in order to protect women and prevent rape.
The regulations, which take force in 2017, were announced this week by India’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
Manufacturers are also required to include GPS in all phones by 2018, in order to help improve security.
Many phone manufacturers already include a panic response feature, but India does not currently have a centralized emergency call system. Because different phone numbers are required to reach police, medical and fire services, the feature has limited utility.
Authorities plan to address the problem with a new national emergency number — 112 — that will roll out in the coming months.
India’s government started exploring ways to improve women’s safety following a high-profile rape in December 2012, when a young woman was gang raped by six men in Delhi. The victim eventually died of her injuries.
“Women’s safety is the key driver to this [regulation] happening,” said JS Deepak, secretary in the communications ministry.
Deepak said the government has worked closely with manufacturers to develop the new regulations, and that he expects full compliance.