The 15-year-old girl was alone at home in Kalaburagi’s Aland taluk on 1 November. Sometime in the afternoon, she went to the fields to relieve herself. She did not return.
Hours later, a search team found the child — raped and murdered — in a sugarcane field on the taluk’s outskirts. “She was strangled to death with her dupatta,” the police later said.
The Karnataka girl’s case is not an isolated one. Quoting the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics, The Times of India on 31 August reported that at least 90 minor girls were raped in India in 2021.
Instances of rape could be much higher than the available numbers. Several cases go unreported in the country which recorded one rape every 16 minutes in 2019.
The frequent instances of rape being reported have been worrying 16-year-old Vijaylaxmi Ravi Biradar, a class 10 student of SRN Mehta School (State Board) in Kalaburagi.
When her science teacher told the class to design and develop any device that would help in alleviating issues plaguing the society, the girl came up with an idea.
A simple but powerful solution
The teacher, Sumayya Khan, was expecting the students to turn up with ideas that would help farmers. Vijaylaxmi, however, came up with a solution that would help women in distress.
After several rounds of discussions with the teacher, Vijaylaxmi produced a design for GPS-enabled anti-rape footwear. The teacher and student together developed a prototype that has won laurels at the state and national levels.
“We frequently hear news about rape, harassment, eve-teasing and people misbehaving with women. We recently had one such heinous incident in Kalaburagi in which a minor girl was sexually assaulted. Hence we thought of developing a pair of anti-rape footwear,” Vijaylaxmi told South First.
The footwear acts like a mini stun gun. It stuns the assaulter for a few minutes, providing the girl enough time to escape. The GPS technology employed can send an SOS message and the live location to the user’s parents or even to the police station/police officer whose phone numbers could be fed on the Blynk App downloaded from Google Play Store.
“The app is connected to the circuit in one of the footwear,” Vijaylaxmi said.
“The user has to touch her right footwear with her left leg or even kick the offender to activate the circuit which will send her live location along with SOS messages to her family or the police,” the student explained.
The other footwear in the pair has a piezoelectric transducer comprising a battery and a spring-like mechanism.
“A force is applied on the footwear while walking — the piezoelectric device converts the mechanical energy (produced while in motion) to electrical energy. The electrical energy is saved in an embedded battery. This electric current is utilised for stunning an offender with a switch-like projection on the toe of the footwear,” Vijaylaxmi further said.
A proud Sumayya Khan chipped in. “The electric current is around 0.5 ampere (amp) which is similar to that of a mosquito bat. It is enough to stun an offender for a couple of minutes and the girl can escape or call for help,” the teacher told South First.
The power could be further increased. “If required, the electric current can be increased from 0.5 amp to even 0.10 amp, which could easily stun a well-built person,” she added.
The teacher-student duo successfully showcased their life- and dignity-saving footwear at several science expos in the state.
“At a national-level expo held in Vadodara from 25 May to 28 May this year, 90 projects were exhibited, including the anti-rape footwear. The jury selected 26 best models for the India International Expo-2022,” Khan said, adding that the anti-rape footwear, too, was selected.
“These selected 26 models were again exhibited at the India International Expo, held in Goa between November 16 and 18. The anti-rape footwear secured the silver medal,” the teacher beamed.
Recalling their Vadodara experience, she said the jury asked them an important question. The footwear would work only if there is internet connectivity. What if the girl is at a place with no connectivity?
“Vijaylaxmi is a go-getter,” Khan said. The duo started working on improvising their device with an additional feature — an RF transmitter embedded in a keychain or a pendant that could be worn around the neck.
“The RF transmitter could connect to any RF receiver (buzzer) that could produce a loud noise, alerting the members of the public within a 50-metre radius of the girl’s location,” Vijaylaxmi explained.
Vijaylaxmi and Khan are now planning to install RF receivers on streetlight poles wherever internet connectivity is not available in their neighbourhood. A person in distress could activate the buzzer by pressing the stress button on her keychain or pendant.