By Maya Palit
It turns out that the majority of the 225 cyber crime cases reported in Kerala between June 2016 and February 2017 had to do with women being stalked on social media or other applications. According to police officials, online abuse of women is rising every day in the state, and is particularly rampant in Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram (with 51 and 47 cases of online harassment respectively). Approximately 70 percent of the cases involved ‘derogatory comments’ or photos being posted to Facebook.
None of this should come as particularly surprising because the cyber harassment of women (including TV anchors, actors, and other public figures) was found to be extremely common by a survey conducted by an IT firm in Kochi last year, which focused on Kerala. So much so that apparently the term ‘pongala’ was coined to describe online trolling and attacks. It found that many victims were reluctant to report the crimes for a range of reasons, including not knowing how to go about it or preferring to just block or ignore their attackers.
Cyber harassment is of course, an everyday feature in other parts of the country too, and attempts to report it sometimes come with interesting consequences too. Just last week, a 17-year-old in Udaipur attempted to report a case where her face was morphed on to a naked body, but after a long rigmarole where she tried repeatedly to lodge an FIR at the police station, she was told by police officials to delete her social media accounts and avoid posting any photos of herself in order to stay safe. But while this incident has sparked a conversation about sensitivity to cyber harassment, the acknowledgement of online abuse as a serious offence is still not widespread enough.