In India, there are multiple laws that have been enforced to ensure the safety of women and their protection from violence. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 have incorporated various punishable offences against women.
Section 354 – Outraging the Modesty of a Woman
If any person does any act with the intention to cause disgrace to a woman’s modesty, shall be punished under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. To constitute this act, there must be some use of criminal force or assault which has been prohibited under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This provision was included to safeguard public morality and decent behavior.
The offender will be liable to imprisonment for at least 2 years which may extend to 5 years and liable to pay fine.
In the case of State of Maharashtra v. Manohar[i], a woman came out early in the morning to get water from the village well. The accused caught her hand and forcefully pulled her to him to be taken to a nearby place. The victim resisted and raised shouts. Her bangles were broken, and she was injured. The court convicted the accused under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 inserted Sections 354(A), 354(B), 354(C) and 354(D) which deals with Sexual Harassment, Disrobing a Woman, Voyeurism and Stalking, respectively.
Sexual harassment includes any form of unwelcome and explicit sexual contact or remarks. The offender will be punished with imprisonment of 1 to 3 years.
In the case of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan[ii], the Court stated that sexual harassment includes any sexually determined behavior, sexually colored remarks, showing pornography and sexual demands, either by words or actions.
To disrobe a woman, the offender must have the intention to compel her to be naked. The man shall be punished for a period of 3-7 years with fine.
Voyeurism is the unlawful act of watching or recording a woman in any private act. Such watching or recording must have been against her will and in cases where she would not want to be watched or recorded generally. The offender shall be punished for 1-3 years with fine.
Stalking is an act of following a woman and contacting or attempting to contact her even where the woman has indicated her disinterest. Stalking can also be done via any form of electronic communication. Stalking has been a common offence in India that the Indian Penal Code, 1860 has laid down two forms of punishment for this crime. For first time offenders, the punishment is imprisonment for up to 3 years and fine. For repeated offenders, the punishment extends to 5 years with fine.
In the case of Deputy Inspector General of Police v. S. Samuthiram[iii], the Court laid down the following directions to curb eve-teasing:
- All the State Governments and Union Territories are directed to depute plain-clothed female police officers in public places to monitor and supervise incidents of eve-teasing.
- State Government to install CCTV in strategic positions which itself would be a deterrent and if detected, the offender could be caught.
- Person in-charge of the educational institutions, places of worship, cinema theatres, have to take steps as they deem fit to prevent eve-teasing, within their precincts and, on a complaint being made, they must pass on the information to the nearest police station.
- Where any incident of eve-teasing is committed in a public service vehicle, the crew of such vehicle shall, on a complaint made by the aggrieved person, take such vehicle to the nearest police station and give information to the police. Failure to do so should lead to the cancellation of the permit.
- State Governments are directed to establish Women’s Helpline in various cities and towns.
- Suitable boards cautioning such an act of eve-teasing to be exhibited in all public places.
- Responsibility is also on the passers-by and on noticing such incidents, they should also report the same to the nearest police station or to Women’s Helpline to save the victims from such crimes.
- The State Governments and Union Territories of India would take adequate and effective measures by issuing suitable instructions to the concerned authorities including the District Collectors and the District Superintendent of Police to take effective and proper measures to curb such incidents of eve-teasing.
Section 375 – Rape
Rape has been a growing issue in India in recent years. Ever since the Nirbhaya case in 2012, the country has been in shock of the gruesome nature of this act. It has become a worse issue with the rapists murdering the victim after the act, to remove any traces of evidence leading back to them. Rape is not a new issue. It has existed in our nation and other nations for centuries. Male domination and female oppression are two major contributors to this where men feel the need to assert their dominance on women and prove their “masculinity”.
Following the Delhi Gang Rape Case in 2013 and the Unnao Rape Case in 2017, the legislature has seen many changes to the provisions of punishment for rape.
It is important to note that rape is not only “penetration of the penis”, but it also ranges from inserting any body part or object into the vagina, urethra or anus of the woman to use of mouth. Any action is done:
a) Against her will.
b) Without her consent.
c) Where consent was procured by putting the woman under fear of death or hurt.
d) Where consent was accorded under a misconception that the person is the husband of that woman.
e) Where consent was procured by a woman of unsound mind or under the influence of intoxication.
f) Where consent of a girl under 18 years of age was procured.
g) When the woman was unable to communicate consent.
Shall constitute the act of rape.
There are certain exceptions that will not constitute an act of rape:
- Any medical procedure, which involves the insertion of any object into the urethra, vagina or anus of the woman, done for the benefit of the woman or to collect evidence.
- Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age. This exception was however removed in the case of Independent Thought v. Union of India[iv] where the Court held that sexual intercourse with a girl below 18 years of age is rape regardless of whether she is married or not.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 has laid down different forms of punishment for different acts of rape:
- Any person who commits the act of rape will be punished for a period of 10 years which may extend to life imprisonment along with fine.
- There are 14 situations of rape for which imprisonment ranges from a minimum of 10 years to life. These situations are given under Section 376(2) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- For raping a woman under 16 years of age, the punishment is imprisonment of a minimum of 20 years to life along with fine. This provision was incorporated by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2018.
- After raping the woman, if the offender leaves her in a vegetative state, he shall be punished with imprisonment of 20 years or life imprisonment or death.
- Another addition by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2018 provides that whoever commits rape on a woman under twelve years of age shall be punished with minimum imprisonment of twenty years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life, and with fine or with death.
- Sexual intercourse with the wife by the husband during separation is a punishable offence of imprisonment of 2-7 years and fine.
- Any person is an authority or in a fiduciary relationship induces or seduces a woman to have sexual intercourse with him, which shall not amount to rape, will be punished for 5-10 years and fine.
- When a woman is raped by one or more persons, each of them will be deemed to have committed the offence of rape and shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a minimum of 20 years which may be extended to life imprisonment and with a fine. This provision was also incorporated by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2018.
- When a woman under 16 years of age is raped by one or more persons, each of them will have committed the offence of rape and will be imprisoned for life.
- When a woman under 12 years of age is raped by one or more persons each of them will have committed the offence of rape and will be punished with life imprisonment with fine or with death.
- Repeated offenders under Sections 376, 376A, 376AB, 376D, 376DA or 376DB will be punished with life imprisonment which or with death.
In the case of Mukesh & Anr. v. State (NCT of Delhi)[v], six accused persons, brutally assaulted, tortured, and raped a 23-year-old paramedical student, on a moving bus, before leaving her bleeding on the side of the road late in the night. The victim succumbed to her injuries after a few days of the incident. An FIR was registered against the accused person under Sections 302, 120-B, 365, 376(2)(g), 377, 201, 395, 397, 412 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Here the Court stated that even if there were mitigating circumstances like young age, dependents and ailing parents, post crime remorse, aggravating circumstances outweighed them, warranting confirmation of death sentence.
Section 304-B – Dowry Death
This Section was incorporated by the Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1986. Under this Section, the woman must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relative for dowry within 7 years of their marriage. Such cruelty or harassment should have resulted in her death by any burns or bodily injury or any other circumstance.
The burden lies on the prosecution to prove the ingredients of Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 including the fact that before the woman’s death, she had been subjected to cruelty in relation to dowry to be read along with Section 113-B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment of up to 7 years which may extend to life imprisonment.
In Surinder Kumar v. State of Punjab[vi], the accused husband had mistreated his wife for insufficient dowry and the wife was driven to commit suicide. She set herself on fire resulting in 90% burns. The Police officer recorded the dying declaration of the victim in the presence of doctors. The accused stated that the dying declaration should not be accepted as the deceased was not in a condition to make a statement. The Supreme Court rejected the arguments of the accused and held that the dying declaration contained some facts which may not be known to a stranger and that the details given by the victim were indicative of her consciousness. Hence, the accused was convicted under Section 304-B of Indian Penal Code, 1860.
4. Section 498-A – Cruelty by Husband or Relatives of Husband
If the husband or his relative subjects the wife to cruelty will be punished with imprisonment for up to three years and fine. Cruelty shall be either any wilful conduct which is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health of the woman or harassment of the woman where such harassment is to coerce her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.
Section 509 – Word, Gesture or Act Intended to Insult the Modesty of a Woman
If any person, with the intention to outrage the modesty of a woman, says any words, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object to the woman or intrudes upon the privacy of the woman will be punished with simple imprisonment for up to three years along with fine.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
This is an Act which was incorporated to provide for more effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the Constitution of India who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family and for matters connected to them or incidental to them.
OTHER INITIATIVES[vii] –
- National Commission for Women – This body was set up by the Government in January 1992 to study and supervise matters in relation to the Constitutional and legal statutes provided to women.
- Reservation for Women in Local Self-Government – This was brought into force by the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 to ensure that one-third of the total seats are given for women in all elected offices in local bodies.
- The National Plan of Action for the Girl Child – This plan of action ensures the survival, protection, and development of girl children for building up a better future for girls.
- National Population Policy, 2000 aimed at registering all births, marriages, deaths, and pregnancies by 2010.
- National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, 2001[viii] – The Department of Women and Child Development in the Ministry of Human Resource Development prepared a “National Policy for the Empowerment of Women” in 2001 with the objective of ensuring the advancement, development, and empowerment of women.
Endnotes[i] 1994 CrLJ 2536 (Bom) [ii] AIR 1997 SC 3011 [iii] (2013) 1 SCC 598 [iv] (2017) 10 SCC 800 [v] (2017) 6 SCC 1 [vi] (2012) 12 SCC 120 [vii]http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/reports_and_publication/cso_social_statices_division/Constitutional&Legal_Rights.pdf [viii]UN Women, Global Database on Violence against Women
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