The Laws that protect Us from Violence
Very Important Laws
Here we look at the law in relation to acts of sexual violence that are covered by the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).
Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty
What does the law say about assault of a woman?
Section 354 of the IPC criminalises any act by a person that assaults or uses criminal force against a woman with the intention or knowledge that it will outrage her modesty. Such an act is punishable with either simple or rigorous imprisonment of up to 2 years, or a fine, or both.
Indian courts have ruled that the essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex, ie: a woman possesses modesty by virtue of being a woman.
How is Sexual Harassment defined under the IPC?
Sexual harassment is defined under S. 354 A of the IPC as a man committing 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,
This law covers a wide ambit of acts that constitute sexual harassment, including unwanted verbal or physical advances of any kind. This law is not limited by location at which the sexual harassment takes place, unlike the law to prevent sexual harassment at work places which is explained in a later section.
What is the punishment for Sexual Harassment under the IPC?
The punishment for (i), (ii) and (iii) as given above is rigorous imprisonment for a term that may extend to 3 years, or a fine, or both while the punishment for (iv) is either simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to 1 year, or a fine, or both.
Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe
Section 354B of the IPC criminalises assault or use of criminal force against a woman with the intention of disrobing her, i.e. with the intention of depriving her of her clothing or forcing her to be naked. Such an act is punishable with either simple or rigorous imprisonment of 3 to 7 years and a fine. Aiding such a crime also carries the same punishment.
While this may sound similar to outraging modesty, it isn’t. It is considered an offence whether or not the man intended to outrage the modesty of the woman.
How is voyeurism defined under the IPC?
Section 354C of the IPC criminalises the act of voyeurism. It defines it as a man watching or capturing the image of a woman engaged in a private act in circumstances where she would usually not expect to be observed by the perpetrator or by any other person on the orders of the perpetrator or the distribution of an image so captured by the perpetrator.
What is the punishment for an act of voyeurism?
The punishment for committing this offence is simple or rigorous imprisonment of 1 to 3 years and a fine. Repeated offenders are punished with simple or rigorous imprisonment of 3 to 7 years and a fine.
Section 354D of the IPC criminalises stalking of a woman by a man. It defines the Act to include continuous following or contacting a woman by a man or attempts to contact a woman to build a personal relationship with that women even when the woman has shown a clear lack of interest. It also include acts of monitoring a woman’s electronic communication, i.e. communication over emails, social media etc.
What is the punishment for stalking?
First time offenders are punished with either simple or rigorous imprisonment of upto 3 years and a fine while repeated offenders are punished with simple or rigorous imprisonment of upto 5 years and a fine.
When is stalking not considered a crime?
Stalking is not considered a crime if it is done as a legal duty for prevention and detection of crime by the State or under any legal duty imposed by a law in practise or in a situation where such an act of stalking is seen as reasonable and justified.
How is human trafficking defined under the IPC?
Section 370 of the IPC defines human trafficking as the action or practice of transporting people illegally or without their consent across areas mainly to be used in the labour or commercial sex industry. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 is the law regulating human trafficking in India.