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Blockchain’s Role in Empowering Survivors – Cointelegraph Magazine

Cointelegraph Magazine

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

Heading dwelling 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 dwelling. Six males brutally gang-raped and tortured her whereas her buddy was crushed. On December 29 2012, after combating 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 may 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 protected. Younger girls had been particularly involved; many had skilled sufficient harassment to acknowledge that Jyoti’s destiny may have simply been a buddy’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 info, opening up a brand new house for survivors and allies to precise 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 rapidly turned synonymous with the motion itself.

However talking out on these points is a tricky resolution, one which takes substantial braveness; the desperation for change and justice can outweigh the worry and eclipse the danger, however there isn’t a denying it will probably 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 discuss that December 29 was a day that India “plunged into darkness”, as individuals throughout the nation woke as much as the “horrific reality” concerning the remedy of ladies within the nation. As protests unfold to the place Meera was residing 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 considerations. “I noticed, for the primary time, that my voice mattered”, she asserts within the discuss.

There have been, in fact, dangers related to talking up. She obtained hateful feedback and on-line abuse. I requested Meera if she thought the choice to report and even simply to entry help anonymously would encourage survivors to talk up and attain out for the help they want. “As a survivor myself, I’ve thought of it lots,” 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 associates. So sure, private tales can put survivors of violence and their households in danger. I believe the choice to report on violence anonymously will certainly encourage girls to talk up (particularly when they’re at-risk or marginalized), however it does make an enormous distinction when girls share their tales publicly.”

Reporting and documenting sexual violence

If the web democratizes info, blockchain goes a way towards safeguarding it. Not each survivor in search of entry to justice and help desires to be the most recent poster youngster for rape victims within the media. No person is obligated to talk up earlier than they’re prepared and even in any respect, explicit in cultures by which stigmatization is extra prevalent. So how will we make sure that survivors aren’t going through a alternative between waiving anonymity or waiving entry to help and justice? 

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

Because the Smashboard web site places it, “combating the patriarchy is actual and dangerous labor – and tech can simplify quite a lot of this work”. In addition to serving to survivors of sexual violence entry justice and help by way of connections with authorized representatives, emotional and psychological help, and providing the flexibility to create an immutable report of evidential materials, Smashboard can join customers with feminist journalists delicate to their tales — and allows them to depart nameless suggestions, with out having to make the tough alternative to talk up publicly.

Select your anonymity?

Founder Noopur Tiwari, a survivor of sexual violence herself, is a robust believer that whereas survivors talking out is a necessary a part of empowering others to do the identical, pushing individuals to report or converse out significantly earlier than they’re prepared could be retraumatizing. The app gives a component of ‘select your personal anonymity’ by implementing a blockchain resolution alongside a wealth of extra options.

 “Smashboard’s implementation is closely geared in the direction of zero information 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 wish to entry. We additionally felt that the system wanted a option to indisputably hyperlink anonymized artefacts to a given person at any level, no matter 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 an important aspect for Noopur.  “I’ve been by way of 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 wish to management the best way by which you’re reaching out. Generally 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, great 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 may really discover a synergy with feminist values. The entire concept of decentralization on the heart of blockchain is one thing that appeals to us, as a result of patriarchy is one thing that capabilities resulting from 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 thought of blockchain and decentralization as a feminist doctrine is tinged with a modicum of irony. Noopur isn’t the primary girl within the house to allude to blockchain’s ‘tech bro’ bother, with males disproportionately representing the trade in the case of 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 unique venture fell to items on account of a collaboration with the mistaken individuals. “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 by which they perform, the best way by which they communicated was horrible for us. It was nearly 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 complete 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 by 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 which means doing issues otherwise, and somewhat extra slowly, than your common crypto start-up.

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

We wish to construct belief, we would like to have the ability to really present that it’s simply doable to not punish those who have marginalized identities within the digital house.

“It’s the people who find themselves behind these digital areas or who’re serving to that digital house exist that should work on feminist ideas.” One of many methods Smashboard is reaching that aim is by constructing a enterprise mannequin that doesn’t depend on harvesting information that may very well be misplaced, hacked, or finally offered.

Making an allowance for Smashboard’s dedication to holding house 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 subsequently could also be apprehensive about sharing delicate info.

Noopur is pragmatic; Smashboard isn’t taking up the duty of erasing sexual violence, nor does it purpose 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, somewhat than setting concerning the unattainable activity 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 means that survivors of sexual violence in India could make different survivors’ lives somewhat 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 % of rape instances go unreported, with stigma, stress from relations to stay silent, and victim-blaming all rife.

“Even when instances do make it to court docket, conviction charges for crimes towards girls are abysmally low and this can be very onerous for victims to acquire justice, significantly if they’re from marginalized communities.”

“Investments in tech like Smashboard supply alternatives for feminists to attach and for survivors to faucet into help programs, retailer proof safely and, hopefully, enhance their entry to justice. However, in fact, what we finally must put money into, 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 way more to enhance the felony justice system, together with higher implementation of current legal guidelines and reform of procedures, and guaranteeing extra funding goes to handle 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 Ladies, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the group’s Govt Director, says: “Since lockdown restrictions, home violence has multiplied, spreading internationally in a shadow pandemic. This can be a important time for motion, from prioritizing important companies like shelter and help for girls survivors, to offering the financial help and stimulus packages wanted for broader restoration.”

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

“By BlockchAngel, we’re on the lookout 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 help from IDB to acquire funding.

Itzel continues: “The problem can contain entrepreneurs, firms, startups, NGOs, or foundations, which may current their proposals both individually or in consortia. The tasks could be in prototype section, or in a extra superior stage of improvement.” Whereas this problem is presently targeted on options for LAC, there may very well be scope to develop its attain or for the tasks themselves to forged their nets wider. Itzel continues: “We imagine there are [solutions among those submitted to BlockchAngel] which may very well 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 girls in disaster

UN Ladies itself is not any stranger to exploring the functions of blockchain know-how to enhance the lives of ladies 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 examine 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 disbursed will routinely be despatched to Constructing Blocks.”

The truth that UN Ladies and WFP validate one another’s transactions by way of a typical blockchain community ends in 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 Ladies embody a four-day hackathon in January 2018, throughout which seven blockchain firms offered humanitarian options to members from UN companies, everlasting missions to the UN, tech communities, humanitarian employees and tutorial researchers. The strongest of these pitches had been invited to submit proposals for subject testing. Additional to this, a blockchain cell pockets resolution was developed by a non-public sector accomplice of UN Ladies, and was piloted in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. The challenges with these pilot tasks and hackathons could also be in rising promising seedlings into scalable, adaptable applications.

Probably the most harmful place on Earth to be a lady

Violence towards girls and ladies and sexual violence particularly will not be 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 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 crammed you with white scorching rage, triggered tears to sting your eyes, induced a sickened feeling within the pit in your abdomen. Ultimately, the instances fade from chyrons, the uncooked wounds scab over, and the mundanity of on a regular basis life engulfs us.

India remains to be essentially the most harmful place on Earth to be a lady. Reporting of sexual violence is estimated to be as little as 1 %, which can be partly resulting from the truth that marital rape continues to be authorized throughout the nation, with one in three males 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.

Similar to Noopur Tiwari’s acknowledgement that tasks like Smashboard gained’t change the world or eradicate sexual violence and the culturally-ingrained points and perception buildings that permit it to thrive, we will acknowledge blockchain’s limitations as a device for humanitarian support as nicely. 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 combating for actual change.

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

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