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NEED FOR CHANGE – Stalking is not romantic, it’s a crime, say experts

Matinee idols may have justified it on screen with cheeky one-liners, but stalking is neither flattering nor romantic -it is a criminal offence, said experts in a discussion on stalking.Cases of stalking are rarely reported and come to light only when it results in acid attacks, rape or murder, experts said during the third edition of the mental health café organised by mental health NGO SCARF.

Stalking was not considered a serious crime in the country until laws were amended in February 2013 following the 2012 December gang rape in New Delhi.

“Stalking has been un fortunately romanticised in movies and actors from Sivaji to Sivakarathikeyan have been seen stalking heroines on the screen. Many of these heroines also end up marrying the stalkers in the films and the audiences ac cept and enjoy these scenes.If this is the kind of understanding people have of love, we need to first change it,“ said activist V Iswarya, who started a campaign called `Callingoutstalking’.

Iswarya said Tamil media equates stalking to “onesided love“ because there is no equivalent for the word in Tamil. “We are now trying to put pressure on the media to use words like vanthodarthal,“ she said.

Senior high court advocate V Balu, who specialises in cybercrime, said there is no gender difference in stalking. Balu said the addiction to social media and mobile phones has made the situation worse. By putting personal information online, people are giving probable stalkers easy access to their lives, Balu said, adding that technology must be used judiciously.

The discussion also focussed on how cultural changes in ways of thinking must be ushered in at every level -home, educational institutions and the society at large -where healthy equations between boys and girls must be emphasised.

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