Blockchain’s Function in Empowering Survivors – Cointelegraph Journal

On a usually brisk winter night in Saket, South Delhi, Jyoti Singh and a male pal loved a visit to the flicks to observe Ang Lee’s Lifetime of Pi

Heading house afterwards they waited at a bus cease, after which boarded a non-public bus certain for Dwarka at round 9.30pm. However Jyoti didn’t make it house. Six males brutally gang-raped and tortured her whereas her pal was overwhelmed. On December 29 2012, after preventing for her life for 13 days, Jyoti Singh died.

The savage homicide of this younger girl despatched shockwaves all through India. Hundreds of protestors took to the streets throughout India and South Asia, as anger erupted in each nook of the nation and spilled out internationally. 

To many, it felt completely different this time, as if Jyoti’s merciless destiny might spark significant cultural and authorized change, as if maybe the nation was reckoning with the truth that India’s traditionalism and inherent values weren’t sufficient to maintain its residents secure. Younger girls had been particularly involved; many had skilled sufficient harassment to acknowledge that Jyoti’s destiny might have simply been a pal’s, a sister’s, their very own.

As soon as-silenced voices started to make themselves heard. Nascent citizen journalism made use of the web and social media to gather and disseminate data, opening up a brand new area for survivors and allies to specific their ideas and unleash their despair, and exposing a swelling tumor of discontent and outrage to the world. ‘Nirbhaya’, the web screamed out in ache for Jyoti, that means ‘fearless one’ in Hindi, a phrase which shortly turned synonymous with the motion itself.

However talking out on these points is a troublesome resolution, one which takes substantial braveness; the desperation for change and justice can outweigh the concern and eclipse the danger, however there isn’t any denying it might change your life, and put a goal in your again.

It modified the lifetime of journalist Meera Vijayann, herself a survivor of sexual violence. Meera says in a 2013 TEDx talk that December 29 was a day that India “plunged into darkness”, as folks throughout the nation woke as much as the “horrific reality” in regards to the therapy of girls within the nation. As protests unfold to the place Meera was dwelling in Bangalore, she made a spontaneous resolution. Logging onto a citizen journalism platform, Meera recorded and posted a video of the scene in her metropolis and aired her frustrations and issues. “I noticed, for the primary time, that my voice mattered”, she asserts within the speak.

There have been, after all, dangers related to talking up. She acquired hateful feedback and on-line abuse. I requested Meera if she thought the choice to report and even simply to entry assist anonymously would encourage survivors to talk up and attain out for the help they want. “As a survivor myself, I’ve considered it rather a lot,” she tells me.

I stayed silent for a few years as a result of I knew that there’d be penalties after I talked in public.

“I made a decision to take action as a result of I knew that I had supportive household and buddies. So sure, private tales can put survivors of violence and their households in danger. I feel the choice to report on violence anonymously will certainly encourage girls to talk up (particularly when they’re at-risk or marginalized), nevertheless it does make an enormous distinction when girls share their tales publicly.”

Reporting and documenting sexual violence

If the web democratizes data, blockchain goes a way towards safeguarding it. Not each survivor searching for entry to justice and assist needs to be the newest poster baby for rape victims within the media. No one is obligated to talk up earlier than they’re prepared and even in any respect, explicit in cultures during which stigmatization is extra prevalent. So how will we be sure that survivors aren’t going through a selection between waiving anonymity or waiving entry to assist and justice? 

Smashboard, ‘your digital ally to smash patriarchy’, is an app that makes use of the Ethereum Blockchain to create an encrypted area for survivors in India to report sexual violence. Smashboard customers are in a position to get hold of medical, authorized, or psychological assist, and retailer data resembling images, video and audio information, screenshots and paperwork as time-stamped proof that would show essential to a case.

Because the Smashboard web site places it, “preventing the patriarchy is actual and dangerous labor – and tech can simplify loads of this work”. In addition to serving to survivors of sexual violence entry justice and assist by connections with authorized representatives, emotional and psychological assist, and providing the power to create an immutable file of evidential materials, Smashboard can join customers with feminist journalists delicate to their tales — and permits them to go away nameless suggestions, with out having to make the troublesome selection to talk up publicly.

Select your anonymity?

Founder Noopur Tiwari, a survivor of sexual violence herself, is a powerful believer that whereas survivors talking out is an important a part of empowering others to do the identical, pushing folks to report or converse out notably earlier than they’re prepared will be retraumatizing. The app offers a component of ‘select your individual anonymity’ by implementing a blockchain resolution alongside a wealth of further options.

 “Smashboard’s implementation is closely geared in direction of zero data proof,” says Noopur. “That, for us, is paramount in order that customers can stay nameless for so long as they should, and nonetheless handle to entry all of the options that they need to entry. We additionally felt that the system wanted a option to indisputably hyperlink anonymized artefacts to a given person at any level, regardless of whether or not they have chosen to stay pseudo-anonymous or not. And blockchain lets you do this – it affords customers the safe consolation that they want.”



The pseudo-anonymity {that a} blockchain resolution delivers was a vital aspect for Noopur.  “I’ve been by the ups and downs, the insecurities of reaching out and asking for assist. the first factor that you simply’re afraid of is that you’ll lose your company,” she explains. “You need to management the best way during which you’re reaching out. Typically you don’t have the power to even ask for assist. So how will we cut back the trouble that the survivor has to make to inform their story and be capable to converse? Simply that little consolation of pseudo-anonymity can go a protracted, good distance in serving to survivors.”

For Noopur, there’s one other worth proposition of blockchain that’s extra ideological than technological. She explains: “We discovered that the disruptive nature of blockchain might really discover a synergy with feminist values. The entire thought of decentralization on the middle of blockchain is one thing that appeals to us, as a result of patriarchy is one thing that capabilities on account of misuse of energy, and the centralization of energy. So the disruption of centralized networks is one thing which appealed to us as feminists.”         

Decentralization as a feminist doctrine

The concept of blockchain and decentralization as a feminist doctrine is tinged with a modicum of irony. Noopur isn’t the first woman in the space to allude to blockchain’s ‘tech bro’ trouble, with males disproportionately representing the trade relating to excessive degree positions, talking gigs, and funding.

Noopur very clearly asserts Smashboard’s rejection of such a tradition, giving an account of how Smashboard’s authentic venture fell to items because of a collaboration with the improper folks. “We tried to work with the tech bros,” Noopur tells me. “In the event that they thought that our venture was one thing that deserved their labor, we thought, why not?”

However the collaboration was ill-fated, and short-lived.  She continues: “It turned out that the best way during which they operate, the best way during which they communicated was horrible for us. It was virtually traumatic. They had been behaving in ways in which had been extraordinarily patriarchal. Ultimately, we needed to cease working with them, and we misplaced all our code for the primary app. Our whole venture was prepared to go surfing, and on the day we deliberate to launch, our collaboration with these tech bros fell aside – the best way during which they had been behaving was simply not acceptable to us as feminists.

“We begged them to provide us the work that that they had carried out with our labor for a very long time, and we didn’t succeed. So we began from scratch, and this time, we determined to not work with tech bros. And clearly it’s tougher, as a result of there are extra males who know the know-how.” Constructing a digital feminist group that facilities survivors and their wants is on the core of Smashboard’s ethos, and meaning doing issues in a different way, and just a little extra slowly, than your common crypto start-up.

“We’ve had sufficient of misogyny on-line,” Noopur tells me. 

We need to construct belief, we wish to have the ability to really present that it’s simply attainable to not punish folks that have marginalized identities within the digital area.

“It’s the people who find themselves behind these digital areas or who’re serving to that digital area exist that should work on feminist ideas.” One of many methods Smashboard is reaching that purpose is by constructing a enterprise mannequin that doesn’t depend on harvesting knowledge that might be misplaced, hacked, or ultimately bought.

Considering Smashboard’s dedication to holding area and centering the wants of survivors, I requested Noopur how the venture tackles the problem of belief – many customers would presumably be unaware of how the underpinning know-how that affords them pseudo-anyonymity works, and due to this fact could also be apprehensive about sharing delicate data.

Noopur is pragmatic; Smashboard isn’t taking over the duty of erasing sexual violence, nor does it intention to assist each single survivor.  The ‘power in numbers’ advantages of citizen journalism translate to the constructing of a sturdy digital group, and Smashboard’s strategy, quite than setting in regards to the unimaginable process of reaching out to each potential person of the app to persuade them and clarify the know-how, is to construct a group of feminist influencers whom survivors independently advocate for the platform and the trustworthiness of the blockchain aspect.

Smashboard is only one approach that survivors of sexual violence in India could make different survivors’ lives just a little simpler, and assist them transfer ahead with out being needlessly retraumatized.

Tech options to societal issues?

Niki Kandirikirira, Director of Applications at Equality Now, a charitable group that works to finish sexual violence, acknowledges the potential advantages of Smashboard whereas acknowledging the broader social change wanted to make a distinction on a macro degree. She tells me: 

India’s felony justice system has largely failed survivors of sexual violence. It’s estimated that over 90 p.c of rape circumstances go unreported, with stigma, strain from members of the family to stay silent, and victim-blaming all rife.

“Even when circumstances do make it to courtroom, conviction charges for crimes towards girls are abysmally low and this can be very exhausting for victims to acquire justice, notably if they’re from marginalized communities.”

“Investments in tech like Smashboard provide alternatives for feminists to attach and for survivors to faucet into assist techniques, retailer proof safely and, hopefully, enhance their entry to justice. However, after all, what we in the end have to spend money on, is efficient authorized responses that put an finish to impunity and deter males from raping and violating girls and ladies. In India, most perpetrators of sexual assault should not held to account for his or her actions and are in a position to act with impunity. The federal government must do rather more to enhance the felony justice system, together with higher implementation of present legal guidelines and reform of procedures, and making certain extra funding goes to deal with gender-based violence.”

In fact, these points should not distinctive to India, and the present COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating and intensifying bodily and sexual violence towards girls and ladies globally. Quoted in a press launch from UN Girls, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the group’s Government Director, says: “Since lockdown restrictions, home violence has multiplied, spreading internationally in a shadow pandemic. It is a crucial time for motion, from prioritizing important companies like shelter and assist for ladies survivors, to offering the financial assist and stimulus packages wanted for broader restoration.”

LACChain, a regional program from IDB Lab, the innovation laboratory of IDB Group, a corporation targeted on bettering lives in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), has taken intention on the challenge otherwise, seeking to blockchain for the answer within the type of the BlockchAngel problem.

“By means of BlockchAngel, we’re searching for blockchain options to cease violence towards girls, kids and the aged,” explains Itzel Nava Valdez, Group Coordinator at LACChain. The problem, organized by IDB Lab, LACChain, and non-profit Everis Basis, has closed for entries, and an eventual winner will take pleasure in ‘free, open and preferential entry to the infrastructures promoted by LACChain’, and assist from IDB to acquire funding.

Itzel continues: “The problem can contain entrepreneurs, corporations, startups, NGOs, or foundations, which may current their proposals both individually or in consortia. The initiatives will be in prototype part, or in a extra superior stage of growth.” Whereas this problem is at the moment targeted on options for LAC, there might be scope to develop its attain or for the initiatives themselves to solid their nets wider. Itzel continues: “We consider there are [solutions among those submitted to BlockchAngel] which might be tailored to different nations. The difficulty is whether or not or not [the solutions] adjust to different authorized jurisdictions.”

Different blockchain-based initiatives for ladies in disaster

UN Girls itself is not any stranger to exploring the functions of blockchain know-how to enhance the lives of girls in disaster conditions.

The group has beforehand recognized money transfers utilizing blockchain to spice up monetary inclusion amongst girls as a option to make the most of the know-how in a humanitarian setting, partnering with the World Meals Program (WFP) to trial an interagency blockchain venture, ‘Constructing Blocks’. The pilot targeted on Syrian refugee girls within the Azraq and Zaatari camps in Jordan, and a case research on the venture describes a possible use-case: “A Syrian girl will quickly be capable to scan her eye to request money again at WFP-contracted supermarkets. The scan will hyperlink to her account on the blockchain, and the amount of money distributed will mechanically be despatched to Constructing Blocks.”

The truth that UN Girls and WFP validate one another’s transactions by a standard blockchain community leads to improved safety and accountability. This reduces dangers and prices, whereas selling the elevated harmonization of support efforts.

Further toes dipped into blockchain’s waters by UN Girls embrace a four-day hackathon in January 2018, throughout which seven blockchain corporations offered humanitarian options to individuals from UN companies, everlasting missions to the UN, tech communities, humanitarian staff and educational researchers. The strongest of these pitches had been invited to submit proposals for subject testing. Additional to this, a blockchain cellular pockets resolution was developed by a non-public sector associate of UN Girls, and was piloted in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. The challenges with these pilot initiatives and hackathons could also be in rising promising seedlings into scalable, adaptable applications.

Essentially the most harmful place on Earth to be a lady

Violence towards girls and ladies and sexual violence specifically is probably not confined inside India’s borders, however there are distinctive challenges in a rustic resembling India with conservative legal guidelines and values, an oppressive caste system, and quite a lot of archaic legal guidelines that punish girls and ladies disproportionately.

It’s true that the violent rape and homicide of Jyoti Singh and the outrage and protests that adopted marked a shift in public notion, however the passage of time means momentum can fade. We’re all responsible of it; consider each information headline that has stuffed you with white sizzling rage, precipitated tears to sting your eyes, induced a sickened feeling within the pit in your abdomen. Ultimately, the circumstances fade from chyrons, the uncooked wounds scab over, and the mundanity of on a regular basis life engulfs us.

India is still the most dangerous place on Earth to be a woman. Reporting of sexual violence is estimated to be as low as 1 percent, which can be partly on account of the truth that marital rape continues to be authorized throughout the nation, with one in three men admitting to raping their wives

Nirbhaya, #MeToo, these actions went a way towards difficult taboos, however the ephemeral fury of an inflammatory information merchandise or the fleeting engagement of a social media publish simply don’t endure.

Identical to Noopur Tiwari’s acknowledgement that initiatives like Smashboard received’t change the world or eradicate sexual violence and the culturally-ingrained points and perception constructions that enable it to thrive, we will acknowledge blockchain’s limitations as a software for humanitarian support as properly. Intentions aren’t at all times pure, dangers aren’t at all times absolutely thought-about, and shoehorning in blockchain-as-a-buzzword for its headline grabbing clout leaves a nasty style within the mouths of these preventing for actual change.

Nonetheless, generally it’s value wanting on the smaller image; these options do have the capability to alter your entire world. For a person.

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