The perpetuation of crimes against women is not a novel concept worldwide; the world is witnessing countless crimes against women every day. India is also beholding myriad cases against women daily, either such incidents are reported or not. Even, According to a survey in 2018 by the Thomas Reuters Foundation, India is the most dangerous country for women in the world.[i]
In India, we have the Indian Penal Code, along with many other laws to deal with such offences against women. Indian Penal Code is a substantive law that describes offences and prescribes punishment for such unlawful acts. Other Laws may include:
- The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
- The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
- The Dowry (Prohibition) Act, 1961
- The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
- The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013.[ii]
The law is growing strict day by day. The span of punishment, nature of the crime, the essence of execution, etc. has been amended from time to time either by new legislation or by precedence (Rulings of the Superior Courts).
IPC provisions for Women:
IPC lays down many provisions that describe offenses against women, especially and punishes the offender accordingly. These offenses, along with general offenses include:
- Insulting the dignity of women (Section 354)
- Sexual harassment (Section 354A)
- Assault to disrobe a woman with mens rea (Section 354B)
- Voyeurism- the unlawful pleasure (Section 354C)
- Stalking isn’t love but an offense (Section 354D)
- Insulting the modesty of a woman by word, gesture or act (Section 509)
- Rape -the sexual abuse(Sections 375, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D and 376E)
- Attempt to commit rape (Section 376/511)
- Kidnapping and abduction (Sections 363–373)
- Murder, Dowry death, Abetment of Suicide, etc. (Sections 302, 304B and 306)
- Importation of girls up to 21 years of age (Section 366B)
- Acid Attack -the pain for life(Sections 326A and 326B)
- Husband or his relative’s cruelty on a woman (Section 498A)[iii]
These provisions empower women to take a stand against these kinds of offenses and it is also their right to get justice by punishing the wrongdoer.
Insulting the dignity of women (Section 354)
Section 354 of IPC defines Assault or use of criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty. According to section 10 of IPC, a woman denotes a female human being of any age. However, IPC does not define what exactly outraging the modesty of women means; but various judgments of the courts can guide us to interpret it. For instance;
In this case, the court held that the modesty of a woman is a virtue attached to a woman owing to her ‘sex’.
In this case, the accused performed an indecent act to a seven and half-month-old girl out of his unnatural lust.
In the judgment by the Supreme Court, it highlighted that modesty is with every woman from her birth, and the absence of reaction does not mean that section 354 would not apply. So, the accused was held liable.
Essential of section 354: It includes;
- The victim must be a woman.
- The accused has used criminal force
- The presence of the intention to outrage the modesty of a woman must be there.
Punishment for section 354:
The accused shall be punished with imprisonment not less than one year that may extend to five years, with fine also.
Sexual Harassment ( Section 354A):
The accused of sexual harassment can be held liable if he does any of the following acts;
(i) physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or
(ii) a demand or request for sexual favours; or
(iii) showing pornography against the will of a woman; or
(iv) making sexually coloured remarks[vii].
Punishment for Sexual Harassment:
- The accused shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment extendable up to three years, or with fine or with both for any act described under (i), (ii) and (iii).
- The accused shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment extendable up to one year, or with fine or with both for the act described under (iv).
Assault to disrobe a woman with mens rea (Section 354B):
Under section 354B, if a man assaults or uses criminal force with an intention to disrobe or compel a woman to be naked shall be punishable with imprisonment not less than three years that may be extendable up to seven years, and shall be liable to a fine as well.
The minimum punishment under this section is three years that may be extendable up to seven years, along with fine.
Voyeurism- the unlawful pleasure (Section 354C):
Simply voyeurism is an offense where a man watches or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act. The private acts include; such acts where reasonably a woman expects privacy and an act not of a kind ordinarily done in public.
- On a first conviction, the accused shall be punished with imprisonment not less than one year that is extendable up to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
- On second or subsequent conviction, the accused shall be punished with imprisonment not less than three years that is extendable up to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.
Stalking isn’t love but an offense (Section 354D)
Many people have a misconception that stalking is love, but it isn’t. Generally, stalking is an act to follow or try to contact a woman despite her disinterest. It includes both; the actual following a woman and online stalking( Monitoring the use of the internet or any other form of electronic communication by a woman).
- On a first conviction, the prescribed punishment involves imprisonment for up to three years, and with fine also.
- On second or subsequent conviction, the prescribed punishment involves imprisonment for up to five years, and with fine also.
Exceptions to this section:
Stalking is not punishable if such acts are done to prevent a crime, authorized by state or law, or are reasonable and justified.
Insulting the modesty of a woman by word, gesture, or act (Section 509):
Section 509 is also known as the Eve Teasing Section. If a man intends to insult the modesty of a woman whether by any word, gesture, or act or by intruding upon the privacy of such woman shall be liable.
The offender shall be punished with simple imprisonment extendable up to three years with fine.
Sexual Offences against women:
IPC separately deals with sexual offenses against women under the heading sexual offenses under chapter XVI. It includes rape, punishment for rape, punishment for causing death or resulting in a persistent vegetative state of victim, Sexual intercourse by husband upon his wife during separation, Sexual intercourse by a person in authority, Gang rape, punishment for repeat offenders under various sections in that same chapter.
Rape- the sexual abuse under section 375 and 376:
Indian Penal Code provides a wide and broad definition of rape. There are two essentials:
- Wrongful act as defined under Section 375 (a) to (d), with a woman by a man.
- Mens rea as defined under the same section in the following seven circumstances.[viii]
Punishment for Rape:
- Section 376(1) prescribes punishment not less than seven years that is extendable up to life imprisonment and with fine.
- Section 376(2) prescribes rigorous imprisonment not less than ten years that is extendable up to life imprisonment and with fine.
The rape can be classified as;
- rape with a woman(Section 376),
- rape with murder(Section 376A).
- marital rape(Section 376B),
- rape by public authorities or servants(376C),
- Gang Rape (Section 376D),
- rape by family members or relatives,
- rape with a minor.
The rape laws have been amended from time to time. The following are some significant cases that lead to amendments in rape laws.
- Tukaram vs. the State of Maharashtra 1979
- Nirbhaya Case or 2012 Delhi Gang Rape case
- Kathua Rape case 2018.
Attempt to commit rape (Section 376/511):
Section 376 and Section 511 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the attempt to rape.
- Section 511 explains punishment for attempting to commit offenses punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonments.
Kidnapping and abduction (Sections 363–373):
Kidnapping and abduction are applicable to both men and women. Both are punishable under IPC subject to circumstances and conditions.
- Kidnapping is taking away or enticing a person of any age from one place to another without the consent of that person or the consent of a lawful or legal guardian. Section 359 divides kidnapping into two types; kidnapping from India(Section 360), and kidnapping from lawful guardianship(Section 361).
- Abduction is taking away any person by force, compulsion, inducement by deceitful means from one place to another.
Murder, Dowry death, Abetment of Suicide, etc. (Sections 302, 304B and 306)
- Section 302 lays down the punishment of murder as the death penalty, life imprisonment, and fine also.
- Section 304B describes Dowry Death. Although Dowry is illegal in reality it is still practiced normally as a ritual of marriage. If the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury within seven years of her marriage and it is proved that she was subjected to cruelty or harassment before her death, it is known as Dowry Death. It is punishable with a minimum of seven years imprisonment and may extendable up to life imprisonment.
- Section 306 states about Abetment of Suicide: If any person abets the commission of such suicides, he shall be liable with imprisonment for up to ten years and with fine.
Importation of girls up to 21 years of age (Section 366B):
If a person imports into India a girl under the age of 21 years from outside India or Jammu and Kashmir with intent or knowledge that she will be forced or seduced to illicit intercourse with another person shall be liable with imprisonment up to ten years and with fine also.
Acid Attack-the pain for life (Sections 326A and 326B):
Acid attacks are often used to hurt, threaten, and cause fear in the minds of women. If a person attempts to throw or throws harmful substances like acid to any person having mens rea to damage or hurt any part of his body shall be held liable.
- Section 326A states about Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by the use of acid, etc. The accused shall be liable not less than ten years extendable up to life imprisonment, and with the fine.
- Section 326B states about Voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid. The accused shall be liable not less than five years extendable up to seven years and with the fine.
Husband or his relative’s cruelty on a woman (Section 498A):
If a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband or by his relatives, then the accused shall be punished with imprisonment extendable up to three years and with fine also.
Women have the right to complain against these kinds of offenses, punish the wrongdoer, and to claim compensation. They can enforce their rights in the court of justice. We have legislation, now it is our duty to use it correctly. The position of women in our society needs to be changed in reality. Awareness, support, encouragement, self-confidence, and Education are some basic means to approach the objective of Equality in society and to fight against such offenses. We are the society, so we should only take our stand against such crimes and ensure the security of women in our society.
[iv] Appeal (crl.) 1036 of 2005
[v] 1966 SCR (2) 286
Student, Jaipur National University
The author is a student pursuing B.A.LL.B.(Hons.) degree at Jaipur National University. She is always eager and enthusiastic to gain knowledge in various subjects and desires to change the wrong perspective of people through her writings. For any clarifications, suggestions and feedback kindly find her at firstname.lastname@example.org