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Legal provisions related to sexual offences against Women

Legal provisions related to protecting women from harmful practices.

Outraging Modesty of Women

The law (Section 354 IPC) makes it a special crime to use force against a woman, or even threaten to use force, if the intention is to 'outrage her modesty'. It treats it more seriously than normal and criminal force by allowing the police to make arrests for such crimes without a warrant.

The law does not explain what 'outraging modesty' means. Courts usually make this determination by looking at all circumstances surrounding the incident. The Supreme Court referred to 'modesty' as feminine decency and a virtue that women possess owing to their sex.

The punishment is jail time of between one and five years along with a fine.

Important: It is not enough that the victim's modesty is outraged. It is an offence only when the accused intended or knew it to be likely that the acts in question would outrage the victim's modesty.

Example: Ramesh pulls on Nina's clothes while playing Holi and rips her T-shirt apart. It is a crime only if Ramesh intended or knew it to be likely that his acts would outrage Nina's modesty.


Sexual Harassment

According to (Section 354A IPC), Sexual harassment is the:

  • Unwelcome touching or other physical contact
  • Asking or demanding sex or any other sexual activity
  • Making remarks which are of a sexual nature
  • Showing pornographic material which may include videos, magazines, books etc.

There is a separate law on sexual harassment at workplaces - The Sexual Harassment of women at workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act and Rules 2013 . There are provisions in the main criminal law (the Indian Penal Code or IPC) which are different from the special law on sexual harassment:

  • The IPC is not limited to sexual harassment at the workplace, but punishes such harassment done anywhere.
  • The IPC makes it possible to file a criminal complaint if you have been sexually harassed, while the special law gives you the option of seeking civil remedies and damages, involving your office administration.

The punishment for the first three kinds of sexual harassment is three years as compared to the fourth type (making sexually coloured remarks) which is one year.

Peeping Toms punished

According to Section 354C IPC, it is a crime to look at or capture (say by means of a photograph or video) a woman going about her private acts, where she thinks that no one is watching her. This includes a woman:

  • using a toilet, or
  • who is undressed or in her underwear, or
  • engaged in a sexual act.

The legal term for such acts is voyeurism.

The punishment is jail time of between one and three years along with a fine. If someone is found guilty of committing the same crime more than one time, the punishment is jail time of between three and seven years along with a fine.

What if the woman agrees to have her photo taken?

If the woman agrees to private photos, it is not a crime to take them. However, if she expects them to remain with only certain people, then sharing them is a crime. The law makes it clear that the woman has to expressly consent to both, watching/taking pictures as well as sharing them, for it to not be an offence.

Example: Naina lets Ajay take a few pictures of her while nude for him to work on his sketch. Ajay shares those photos with his friends on Whatsapp. This could amount to a crime under the provision on voyeurism.

Stalking

According to Section 354D IPC, Stalking is -

  • Continuously following a woman or contacting her,
  • Either online or in person
  • Where she has clearly shown she doesn't want the attention

It is punished by three years for a first offence, and five years for repeat offences.

The section makes an exception if a person is stalking a woman as part of a legal duty to do so.

Example: Jeevan is a police officer tracking down a drugs shipment and has been monitoring emails received by Stuti. This would be covered by the exception.

The punishment is jail time of up to three years along with a fine. If someone is found guilty of committing the same crime more than one time, the punishment is jail time of up to five years along with a fine.

Source: Nyaaya

Related Resources

  1. Laws relating to Sexual Harassment
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Judy Mar 26, 2019 08:32 PM

Hiiii, what if I witness somebody get sexually harassed ?? Is there anything I can do (like a PIL) ?? Although the girl does nothing(meaning does not file an FIR or anything)??? And what if I have a video of it happen then can I do something??

Johny Andrews May 22, 2018 05:17 PM

Any latest case references of Supreem Court on Sec.498a and 509 of IPC regarding the Curelty of Husband and his relatives towards women ? Please share

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