Women in Vizag are increasingly being harassed by men clicking photographs of them without their permission on their phones, writes Jaideep Deo Bhanj

Lucy, a Scottish tourist, on a visit to India recently found something very peculiar about men in the country. “I was at a museum and found that many men were taking pictures of me on their mobile phone. The first time it happened I was alone and although I was overwhelmed I chose to ignore it. The next day it happened again. This time around I was with an Indian friend and her attempts to ask them not to click pictures without my permission fell on deaf ears.”

Mobile phones may have made our lives much easier but on the flipside, technology has enabled high quality cameras to be integrated into them. The misuse of this technology is rampant and we often read about voyeuristic videos that have lead young girls to commit suicide.

In Vizag, we live in a cocoon and talk about how the big cities are dangerous for women but fail to look at our own city and the problems like stalking, harassment and blackmail that many college going students face on their daily commute. It is these problems, if not nipped in the bud, that will swell into bigger problems and make the city unsafe.

Under conditions of anonymity, a few girls from city colleges spoke to MetroPlus about the challenges they face everyday. Most of their problems deal with stalking and harassment by boys either from their own college or from outside. Sending lewd messages, continuously calling and sending obscene emails are some of the more minor problems they face as compared to some of the stories they shared. A girl from a city college one day was shocked to find that there was a Facebook account that had been created in her name and that photographs of her had been clicked by someone to create a fake id. The person who had made the account was constantly sending messages and operating it under her name until some friends who had sent her friend requests got to know and brought it to her notice. In another case someone took phone numbers of some female students and listed them on the web as an escort service.

A story that was reluctantly shared was about how someone clicked a photograph of a girl and morphed it with that of a naked person and put it online. Unfortunately for this girl, the trauma of the photograph being spread has had a permanent effect as she was branded as a prostitute by some of her own friends that lead to social exclusion.

When incidents like these occur, students are often afraid to come out and register complaints or talk to college authorities or their parents due to fear.

K.V. Satish Kumar, Sub-Inspector of Police Cyber Crimes Cell, says that the Cyber Crimes Cell does not have a dedicated number as it is not a complete station. The Police Commissioner forwards cases registered at respective police stations to the Cyber Crimes Cell. He advises all those facing problems to dial 100 and lodge a complaint. Kumar says that apart from college students the majority of cases that get reported due to blackmail using mobile phones involve divorced couples and people fighting over property. More often than not the accused is a known person and the two parties settle the dispute outside court. He advises all those that use social networking sites not to share private photographs and sensitive information online as it can be hacked very easily. He says that in most cases people use cyber cafes that do not ask for ID proof to upload and send malicious content.

Vizag is a growing city and steps need to be taken to prevent the use of mobile phones for harassment. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act that was passed after the uprising following the rape in South Delhi on December 16, 2013 has put in strict punishment for offences that deal with stalking and voyeurism.

Section 354 A, B, C, and D have been inserted and every person should take trouble to read and understand it. The controversial and often misused Section 66A of the IT Act also deals with spreading of content by electronic means.

These are the provisions that the law has, but more importantly it requires us to come together as a city and stop people from using a device that was made for communication and capturing happy memories to harass women.