India has Highest Percentage of Women Reporting Harassing Calls; Here's How to Secure Yourself

Eight out of ten women respondents to Truecaller's study reported having experienced harassment and bother through calls and SMS messages. Here we take an in-depth look into how widespread the issue and what steps women can take to safeguard themselves from harassing calls.

As smartphones have become a vital tool for women to communicate and manage their day-to-day activities, there is also a grim reality behind this: women are being harassed on their phones. Police sources claim that incidences of phone call harassment significantly rose after Section 66A of the Information Technology Act of 2000 (which dealt with penalties for transmitting offensive messages via communication services, etc.) was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2015.

In the third edition of Truecaller's study, Understanding the Impact of Harassment Calls and SMS for Women in India, eight out of ten women respondents reported having experienced harassment and bother through calls and SMS messages.

Additionally, one in five of the female respondents claimed to have received inappropriate and sexual calls. Chennai, New Delhi, Pune, and Kolkata are the Indian cities most severely impacted.

There had been a ton of feedback and complaints over the years about how widespread this issue is worldwide. According to a survey, sexual harassment is the top threat to women and girls' safety worldwide.

According to data, more than 9% of women report receiving these calls daily, while 52% report getting harassing phone calls at least once per week. Most sexual or improper calls come from unidentified callers, and very seldom, if ever, are they ever traced. According to the survey, in India, 76% of these calls originate from strangers and 4% from friends or acquaintances.

Interestingly, among the nations studied, India had the greatest percentage of women who reported harassing calls or SMS (Kenya, Columbia, Brazil, and Egypt). According to the survey, 70% of women have responded to these calls and messages.

The study found that women frequently give out their phone numbers in India, particularly whether they are eating out, shopping, participating in contests, or filling out logbooks. 85 percent of people who stated they have taken action against phone harassment reported having the number banned. Only 12% of women reported the number to the police, the survey found, despite the fact that most of them decided to disregard it. Women in metro regions are most likely to get sexual harassment calls or SMS messages across all of the countries, which is a consistent theme.

Origin of Calls

The majority of sexual or improper calls are made by unidentified callers, and relatively few of them are ever traced. Surprisingly, a large portion of these calls originate from prisoners in nations like Kenya and Brazil. Prison convicts frequently have access to phones and will call random persons, particularly women, to harass them.

The lack of a consistent line of action for these accusations is one of the reasons why women don't report it to the police. Less than half of them either ignore it or call their operators for assistance.

It is fairly typical for women to share their phone numbers in Brazil and India. Women most frequently divulge their phone numbers when topping up their phones, shopping, participating in contests, and filling out logbooks.

An Indian resident named Smriti told Tuecaller that "some people linger around in the recharge stores and get our numbers from there." She called attention to the worrying reality that phone numbers are being sold by phone recharge stores all over the nation, allowing males to track and harass women. In Uttar Pradesh, this practice is fairly widespread.

This creates a market for private information obtained in this manner is a serious safety problem, especially for young girls who are exposed to inappropriate messages and are less aware of their rights.

HOW TO DETECT A HARRASSING TELEPHONE CALL

Not all unsolicited phone calls fall within the definition of "harassment." The following criteria are required for an unwelcome phone call to become harassing:

1. The caller's goal to annoy or intimidate you by ringing the phone nonstop.

2. Making offensive or inappropriate remarks, recommendations, demands, or ideas.

3. Keeping his or her identity a secret while carrying on the conversation.

4. Harassing or disparaging others over the phone.

5. Harassing behaviour such as playing ominous music, remaining silent, or exhaling heavily.

How can telephone harassment be addressed legally?

The victim of phone call harassment must report the incident to the police and file a complaint in the general journal as a first step. The victim can record information to aid the authorities in identifying the perpetrator, such as the gender of the caller, the tone of his voice, the date and time of the phone call, the details of the conversation, and the caller's estimated age. The victim must submit a FIR if the harassing phone calls go on for an extended period of time.

THE HELPLINES FOR WOMEN

The 181 (Abhayam Helpline) is just for female use. Female counsellors are available to take the call and record the harasser's information.

The police will then proceed to locate him and file a case against him after receiving the information from the helpline centre.

Another nationwide women's helpline number is 1091. All a woman needs to do to report phone harassment is call this number, and the police will then take the appropriate measures.

Both males and females can use the general number 100 to report a harassing phone call.

Truecaller'sItsNotOk Campaign

In order to gain a deeper understanding of harassment, spam, and phishing calls to women, the Truecaller app started the "ItsNotOk" campaign. It was discovered that these calls had increased by at least 12 percent over the previous two to three years.

As part of its campaign, the app began displaying the women's safety helpline number on its speed dial in March of this year, and it later reported that the helpline number had received twice as many calls.

TRAI's Truecaller-like App

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently disclosed its intentions to launch a caller ID software similar to Truecaller that will display names based on KYC on consumers' phones.

The application will function exactly like Truecaller does. If the program is on, you can view KYC-based information about the caller on your screen if they call you from an unknown number.

According to sources, TRAI has also ensured that the app will be consent-based and optional and that users will have the choice of whether or not to have their identities shown in order to distinguish spam calls.