The issue of women exploitation is so deeply embedded within our society, not specifically in India but around the world. It’s not just a loss for women but our loss as well because we’re failing 50% of our population. It is not just a social issue in India but also an economical issue, the female section of our society suffers as the patriarchal and religious prejudice stop them from doing jobs or to even complete their education, the two genders being taught and treated differently from the day they are born is the root cause of this issue, many female fetuses are not even given a chance to be born in the first place, which only makes it worse.
Classification of Crime against women-
Special Laws for offences against women:
- Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 2
- The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1986
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
- Information Technology Act, 2000
- The Sexual Harassment of Woman at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
- Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994
- The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
Constitutional Provisions for women-
- Fundamental rights-
Article 15(1)- No discrimination on grounds of sex or gender
Article 15(3)- Special provisions for women can be implemented for their upliftment
Article 23(1)- Prohibits human trafficking
Article 39(e)- Ensures the health and strength of working women
Article 42- Work and maternity relief for women
- Fundamental Duties-
Article 51A(e)- Renounces practices offensive to the dignity of women
Crime against women under Indian Penal Code,1980-
Acid Attack (Section 326A and 326B)-
Acid attack is a serious offence against women, it ruins not just their physical appearance but their mental state as well. In India, acid i.e. hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid is as cheap as 20 rupees a bottle, normally people use it as a toilet cleaner but the sad part is that it is used for acid attacks which deform skin and bones of a person. Most of the acid attack cases are against women, which exploits their lives entirely. These attacks happen due to rejection for sexual advances or marriage proposals, demand for dowry etc. and such issues are generated because of the existence of male egotism, misogyny and patriarchy that has been a part of Indian society for years.
Acid Attack provisions under the Indian Penal Code-
CHAPTER XV of Indian Penal Code deals with offences related to grievous hurt by use of acid under Section 326A and 326B.
Criminal Law (Amendment) Act,2013-
Up until 2013, the acid attack wasn’t recognized as a separate offence under IPC and the scope of Section 326 was very narrow and not enough to deal
adequately. On the recommendation of Justice J.S. Verma, the violence of acid was recognized as a “horrendous crime”.
The 226th law commission report of India proposed that these attacks should be made a separate offence under the IPC and a specific compensation should be paid to the victims of such offence.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act,2013 emphasized on punishment for the perpetrator of the acid attack, the amendment also recognized the offence as a separate offence and the penalties were defined for throwing or attempting to throw the acid.
Case- Laxmi v. Union of India and Others,2012
The Supreme court banned the sale of acid in retail stores and directed states to follow specific guidelines regarding the sale of the acid and provide free medical treatment not just in government hospitals but also in private hospitals, they can’t refuse treatment for survivors of acid attack. Also, this was the first time that in the case of an acid attack, the victim was granted compensation under Section 357A of Code of criminal procedure. After the victim fought for her rights which led to a movement on social media and otherwise, various NGOs started helping out acid attack survivors regarding their job and other necessities. Based on the story of Laxmi the survivor, a movie named “CHAAPAK” was released which did spread a lot of awareness.
According to the guideline:
Dealers can only sell acid via government-issued photo identity card for the specific purpose of the purchase. The seller has to submit the details of the sale to the local police within 3 days of the transaction. The Acid should not be sold to a minor and all the stocks should be declared with the local sub-divisional magistrate within 15 days and if stock is not declared, it could be confiscated and the defaulter fined up to 50, 000.
Section: 326A “Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, etc.”
- Permanent or partial harm, deformity or damage to any part of the body;
- Injury is caused i.e. burns, maims or disfigures or disables any part of the body;
- Grievous hurt to the victim;
- Act of throwing or administering acid on the victim;
- The offender should know the commission of the offence which led to the injury of the victim with the intent to cause such injury.
Section 326B: “Voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid”-
- Attempt to throw or administer acid on a person.
- With intent to cause permanent or disability or grievous hurt.
Section 326A – Minimum punishment of not less than ten years, which may extend to imprisonment for life and fine.
Section 326B- Voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid punishable with a minimum five-year sentence that may extend to seven years and a fine.
The offences under Sections 326A and 326B are cognizable, non-bailable and triable by the Court of Sessions.
We’ve watched women suffer from discrimination, exploitation, humiliation, victim-blaming, oppression because of the orthodox beliefs. When we talk about the rape culture in India, we see how serious offences like sexual assault and violence are normalized because of the mindset of the society and actions about gender and the sexuality, we see content about casual sexism, jokes on rape, toxic masculinity etc. on our social media platforms on a daily basis which is disheartening.
When a man has sexual intercourse with a female, without her consent or will, it amounts to rape or sexual assault.
According to Section 375 of IPC rape is defined as “A man who has sexual intercourse with a woman under the following circumstance
- Against her will;
- Without her consent;
- when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person related to her, in fear of death or in any danger;
- when her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she believes is her husband;
- With her consent, where she’s of unsoundness mind or under the influence of intoxication or the administration by the offender personally or through any other substance (stupefying or unwholesome) or if she is unable to understand the nature and the consequences of that to which she gives consent;
- With or without her consent, when she is under 16 years of age i.e. a minor.”
- Marital Rape- Sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.
- Mere indecent assault against a woman is not an attempt to commit rape unless the court is satisfied that the accused had the intent to do so, despite all resistance. E.g. a medical procedure shall not amount to attempt to rape.
Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983
- Section 114A was inserted, under the Indian Evidence Act, it was presumed that it was without the consent of the victim if she says so, which applied to custodial rape cases.
- Section 228A was introduced under IPC; it is punishable to disclose the identity of a rape victim.
Criminal Law (Amendment) Act,2005
The 172nd Law Commission made some recommendations towards some changes in laws relating to rape:
- The word ‘rape’ to be replaced by the term ‘sexual assault’
- Under Section 375 the term ‘sexual intercourse’ shall include all forms of penetration e.g. penile/vaginal, penile/oral, object/vagina and finger/vagina etc.
- To makes rape laws Gender Neutral
- To create a new Section i.e. 376E for ‘unlawful sexual conduct’.
- To provide higher punishment for the offence committed under Section 509
- To consider Marital rape an offence regardless of the age of the women
Criminal Law (Amendment) Act,2013
Nirbhaya Rape case (2012):
It led to the passing of this amendment, which widened the scope of rape and made its punishment more stringent. The amendments were on the recommendation of the Justice J.S. Committee. This case included the offence of gang rape and murder, it was a wake-up call, which led to a change of laws on sexual assault and introduces some new ones.
In this amendment, the following acts shall amount to rape:
- Penetration of the penis into the vagina or mouth or anus;
- Mouth to vagina, anus;
- Touching of vagina or anus or breast;
- Inserting any object inside the vagina, urethra, mouth or anus.
Changes in Punishment:
The provisions related to the punishment of such offences were changed as mentioned below:
- Punishment for rape resulting in vegetative state or death (Section 376A) – 20 years to life imprisonment or even the death penalty.
- Punishment for gang rape – rigorous imprisonment of either a term not less than 7 years and may extend to life imprisonment.
New Offences were added under the broad spectrum of Section 354 of IPC
Assault of Criminal force to women with intent to outrage her modesty/Molestation (Section 354):
Supreme court defined a women’s modesty as “The essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex.” and if a person commits an act against a woman which is suggestive of sex, then such acts shall be punished under this Section, in the case of State of Punjab v. Manoj Singh AIR 1967.
- Assault or criminal force against women
- With the intent to outrage her modesty
Such an offence is a cognizable offence as well as Non-bailable
Sexual Harassment (Section 354A)-
A man committing any of the following actions shall be liable for the offence of sexual harassment—
- physical contact which involves unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or
- demanding or requesting for sexual favour; or
- showing pornography against the will or consent of a woman; or
- makes sexually coloured remarks
- Punished with rigorous imprisonment for a prescribed term, may extend to 3 years, or with fine, or both and if any man makes sexually coloured remarks, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a prescribed term, may extend to 1 year, or with fine, or both.
- Section 354A is a cognizable offence, bailable. It can be tried by any magistrate.
Assault or use of criminal force to women with intent to disrobe (Section 354B)-
This Section deals with, any man who assaults or uses criminal force against any woman or abets such act to disrobe or compel her to be naked.
The offender shall be punished with imprisonment of either for a prescribed term, not be less than 3 years, may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine. It’s cognizable and Non-bailable offence.
Voyeurism (Section 354C)-
Any man who watches or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually expect not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such image commits the offence of Voyeurism against women.
He shall be punished with either description for a term not be less than one year, which may extend to 3 years and liable to fine.
The offence is Cognizable and Bailable.
When a man follows a woman and comes in her contact or even attempts to contact such woman with the intent to foster personal interaction repeatedly against her wishes or consent, with clear indications of disinterest; or
Monitors her activities on the internet, her emails or any other form of electronic communication, he commits the offence of stalking under the Indian Penal Code;
- Stalking to prevent or detect a crime; or
- Any conditions or requirement imposed by any person under any law i.e. if he’s bound by the law; or
- If it’s reasonable and justified for keeping track of a women’s activities
- First conviction: Imprisonment for a prescribed term, which may extend to 3 years, and also be liable to fine;
- Second conviction: Imprisonment for a prescribed term, which may extend to 5 years and also be liable to fine.
Section 509- “Word, gesture, act with the intent to insult the modesty of women”- IPC
Section 509 IPC, as defined under the code states as, “Whoever intending to insult the modesty of a woman, utters any word, makes any sound, or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman”.
An example of such an offence is eve-teasing, it comes under Section 509. This section deals with the protection of a woman’s modesty and her chastity.
- The person shall have the intention to insult the modesty of a woman;
- Insult must be caused by uttering inappropriate words, sound, gesture or by exhibiting any object, with the intention it is heard or seen by a woman;
- Violating the privacy of a woman.
- The person can be subject to imprisonment for a term of 3 years, including fine;
- The offence is a cognizable, bailable, as well as non-compoundable and triable by any Magistrate.
Indian mentality towards Such offences –
The society always tries to seek out faults with the victim, what the victim could’ve possibly done to prevent it, in the Nirbhaya case some people blamed her for being out at night, in the company of her male friend and that she wore a western dress. Thus, the perception of the society was that “she asked for it”. In India, it is so common for parents to impose restrictions on their female child specifically for their protection which bounds them and creates a stigma within them. The conditioning of men is believed to be superiority and to look down upon women as second-class citizens. Sex is taboo and entails a social stigma. The sex ratio is one of the contributing factors. Due to the lack of interaction between the sexes, men don’t know how to behave in a female company. Suppressed sexuality has greater chances of erupting into violent behaviour.
Laws for domestic violence in India are:
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- Section 498A and Section 304B were enacted under the Indian Penal Code
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA), 2005
Domestic violence is defined in Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005, under Section 3 which says that “Any act, omission or commission or conduct of the accused shall constitute domestic violence in case it-
- Harms or injures and puts the health, safety, life or well-being of the aggrieved person in danger, whether mentally or physically, it includes causing physical or sexual or verbal or emotional and economic abuse; or
- To meet any unlawful dowry demands or property or any valuable security from the aggrieved person or any of her relatives; or
- Threatens the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned above; or
- Injures or causes harm whether physical or mental to the aggrieved person.”
There were two provisions added in order to safeguard women from Domestic Violence under IPC i.e. Section 498A and 304B :
Section 498A –
It is covered under Chapter XXA of IPC which covers “cruelty of husband or relatives of the husband”, it was introduced by the criminal law (second amendment) Act, 1983 The objective of this Section is to protect women against harassment and cruelty related to Dowry after marriage by her husband or husband’s relatives.
It widened the definition of “cruelty”, which is-
- “Any act has done wilfully, which is likely to drive the women to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to herself, whether mental or physical; or
- Any harassment against a woman coercing her or her relatives to meet dowry demands(unlawful).”
Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India
The supreme court observed: The objective of this particular Section is to prevent dowry menace but here, the petitioner stated that many such complaints of cruelty are mala fide and the motive behind it is wrong. Even, if the accused is acquitted, the accused suffers a lot during the trial, media coverage adds more problems for the accused. So, there is a need for the remedial measure to ensure there is no misuse of Section 498A and till the court takes on the case, the complaints and allegations should be dealt with properly.
Imprisonment for a prescribed term may extend to 3 years including fine.
Section 304B deals with dowry death-
“Dowry” is defined in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
According to Section 304B, the death of a woman under the following circumstances shall amount to dowry death:
- “If the death is caused by injuries or burns on the body of the victim under unusual circumstances (within 7 years of marriage);
- If it is established that the victim was subjected to any harassment or cruelty by the spouse of the victim or relatives of the spouse, soon before the victim’s death;
- All the above action should be in nexus with the dowry demand;
- Then it will be deemed that the husband or relative of the husband caused her death”.
- The offender shall be punished with imprisonment for a prescribed term which shall not be less than 7 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life depending on the seriousness of the offence.
- Dowry death is a non-bailable and cognizable offence.
Opinion and the current happenings-
- Two sides of Section 498A:
Section 498A was introduced to protect and safeguard women from cruelty caused by her husband or husband’s relatives which helped out a lot of women but on the other side some women misused such law, some of the reasons were marital ego or instigation by woman’s parents or for blackmailing their husbands. So, it is used more like a weapon than defence by wives and as a result, this Section’s importance is reduced.
- Increase of domestic violence in India due to lockdown:
According to the reports of the National Commission for Women (NCW), there has been a spike in complaints of domestic violence ever since the lockdown took place due to the spread of Covid-19.
Looking at the data provided by NCW, the number of complaints during the lockdown increased from 396 complaints to 587 just in March and April. These complaints were reported via social media on the condition of anonymity.
I think it was mostly because women were locked in with family members who were abusive towards them, they were not allowed to leave their houses and women couldn’t possibly go somewhere else to save themselves from the violence.
The government was not much help, the planning and execution were vulnerable and the government was not much concerned about this issue, which made it more difficult for the commission as well as the victims of domestic violence to do much in these difficult times.
- Domestic violence against unmarried women-
It’s not just the married women who suffer such violence, the unmarried women as well go through physical and sexual violence. Some women who are in a live-in relationship have faced domestic violence. While some have experienced physical violence since the age of 14, generally by a parent, or a sibling, or a teacher, or a relative.
- Dowry death-
The practice of ‘Dowry’ even after being criminalised, still takes place very openly in many places whether it is urban areas or rural. To eliminate it, society has to understand that it is a social evil.
The strict laws will be able to control it but it can not put an end to it because of the unawareness in the society. In some cases, women do not have much support from their parents and when she complains, the only option that she is advised with is to compromise instead of raising her voice on the subject. This issue can only be solved if the mindset of society and strict laws on dowry prohibition work together.
The mindset of people matters the most, in India gender neutrality is very important and the gender roles set by the society is the root cause of these social evils still existing in our society. Men do take advantage of women’s vulnerability only because the grooming of a male child and a female child is different, in most cases Indian men are treated superior to women and as a result, women are treated as second class citizens.
Some cases of Acid Attack and cruelty (Section 498A) show that it’s not just the men who put women down, some women have tried to gaslighted men into committing such offences which are even worse, be it a mother-in-law demanding dowry and mentally harassing the victim which drives a woman to commit suicide or harm herself or be it throwing acid on women because of jealousy.
There is a social stigma attached to women being “allowed” to work or to go out as if it’s permission and not freedom. This is one of the reasons why there have been so many movements e.g. feminism, #metoo movement etc. to spread awareness about women’s rights and a fight for equality.
All these issues are real, the offences against women are increasing day by day, many cases are not even reported because women fear that the society will blame them and that is why there was a dire need of all these laws and additional amendments under Indian Penal Code, to punish such hideous offenders and control the crime against women.
Any questions? Leave a comment.
Link to some of my articles (published on other websites):