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Offences Against Women In India And Various IPC Provisions To Safeguard And Uphold The Dignity Of Women

There is no hope for that family or country where there is no estimation of women, where they live in sadness. For this reason, they have to be raised first. This has been quoted by the iconic saint, Swami Vivekananda. The prosperity, as well as the status of a country, remains in the status and wellbeing of men and women together.

These two genders are like two pans of a beam balance, where in the absence of one, there is no significance of the other. All these years, India has been celebrating festivals and worshipping female deities quite piously. However, when it comes to respecting the dignity our real life women, their status is often kept at a menacing stance. Women have succumbed to vulnerability and the virile strength since decades.

All these years, government has been working enormously to close the gap between the two sexes by initiating several schemes and plans for uplifting women economically. Sadly, economic empowerment is not the master solution to every problem faced by a woman. Providing reservations in several government portfolios can increase their economic status of course but their personal and social dignity is still not unfettered. Many women continue still fall prey to the hungry clutches of their superiors.

According to a survey conducted by the Indian Bar Association, in 2017, 70% of the women do not complain about sexual harassment faced by them in their workplace, fearing the repercussions following the same.

In 2019, an average of 87 cases of rape have been recorded on a daily basis in our country. The year saw a total of 4,05,861 cases of crimes against women taking place, an increase of 7% since 2018.

A compilation from The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) revealed that there were 3,78,236, instances of crimes against women in 2018. Out of this, 33,356 were instances of rape, within the territories of our own country. [1]

Delving deeper, we learn that majority of these cases were crimes under The Indian Penal Code. Cruelty by husband or his relatives (30.9 percent), held the major portion. Following to this were, Assault on women with the intent to outrage her modesty (21.8 per cent) as well as kidnapping and abduction of women (17.9 per cent). This data was revealed by NCRB in 2019.

Further in 2019, an aggregate of 32,033 cases of rape were filed in India. This was 7.3% of the total crimes against women in the entire year. So we see that cases of crimes against women have been growing exponentially in a country like ours.

However, The Indian Penal Code has been playing a vital role in curbing these gruesome crimes against women to a large extent. It has various provisions to penalize the perpetrator of these atrocious crimes. Such sections of IPC have been enumerated below.

Acid Attack (Section 326A & 326B)

It is a heinous crime which shakes the dignity of a woman. The acid does not just damages the appearance of the victim but blots her confidence too. Between 2014 and 2018, there have been 1483 instances of acid attack in our country[2]. One of the biggest reasons behind this is that, India is still a patriarchal society, where both the genders do not share a healthy relationship mutually. Not all Indian men understand the weightage of �consent�. If he gets a denial from a woman he desires, he never gives a second thought to attack her with acid.

Sections 326A and 326B were added by the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 2013 to give justice to such victims. These provisions introduced punishment to the perpetrators of acid attack.

According to Section 326A, whoever permanently or partially damages, deforms, disfigures, disables, burns or causes grievous hurt to any part or parts of the body by administering acid to a person, so as to hurt the person, shall be punished with an imprisonment of at least 10 years, which may further extend to life imprisonment along with a fine. Such a fine imposed under this section is to be paid to the victim, for her medical expenses.
Section 326B explains that throwing or attempting to throw acid shall be punished with an imprisonment of at least five years, including fine and which may extend to seven years.

Rape (Sections 375, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D, 376D)

Rape is one of the most horrific and inhumane act, a person can think of. It is denuding a woman of her dignity and chastity. In 2018, approximately 91 cases of rape were recorded daily. Out of this 94.2% of the perpetrators were closely associated to the victims.[3]

Rape basically involves inserting or penetrating any kind of object or the male reproductive part or any other part of the body, to any extent, inside the vagina, mouth, urethra or anus of a woman or making her to do the same or applying of mouth to sexual organs, with force, fraud or by causing a sense of fear. It also involves any other act of sexual intercourse committed under any of the seven grounds mentioned in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code.

The punishment for rape has been articulated under Sections 376(1) and 376(2). Section 376(1) includes minimum imprisonment of seven years and can extend to life imprisonment along with a fine.

In certain aggravated situations, punishment involves a rigorous imprisonment of minimum 10 years and which can extend to life imprisonment or a death sentence or a fine which is enshrined under Section 376(2).

Section 376 (D) speaks about Gang Rape. Where a woman is raped by more than one man, each acting under a common intention, is known as gang rape. The criminals of Gang rape are generally punished with an imprisonment of minimum 20 years and which can extend to life. The Delhi Rape Case of 2012 has been one of the most brutal and atrocious rape cases, ever recorded. After this the government implemented a fast track court system to instantly prosecute the criminals of rape cases.

Outraging the modesty of a woman (Section 354)

Modesty is a characteristic which is born with the sex of a female. Over 88 thousand cases of assault on women, with the intent to outrage her modesty, were recorded in 2019.[4] This section has been introduced to protect a woman from being demeaned. It includes various kinds of perverted acts which have been mentioned under The Indian Penal Code.

According to this section, whoever makes use of a criminal force or assaults a woman with the intention of outraging her modesty or with the outright knowledge that such an act will lead to outraging her modesty, shall be punished with an imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine or both. It engrafts various other sexual acts, which have been mentioned duly in the IPC.

Sexual Harassment (Section 354A)

Out of the total population of our country, 48% consists of women. As of 2019, approximately 20.7% of the women are working[5]. Ever since the women community has stepped into their workplaces, the crimes against women have been increasing by leaps and bounds. So as to act as a check and to improve the working conditions of women, this section was brought into being by the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013, to prevent Sexual Harassment at Workplace.

The section punishes for sexual actions initiated by men like, making sexual advances, passing sexually colored remarks, showing pornography, etc. The punishment mentioned under Section 354 (1) (i) to (iii) of the Code is rigorous imprisonment for a term which is extendable to a period of three years along with a fine or even both. Whereas, the punishment under sub clause (iv), prescribes an imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or a fine or both.

However, looking at the grievousness of the scenario, the government was well convinced to inaugurate a new Act, The Sexual Harassment (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, to look into the ever increasing instances of woman harassment in the workplace. Further the landmark case of Vishaka v The State of Rajasthan[6], paved the way to this Act. In this particular case.

The Supreme Court issued various guidelines and asked the government to make laws in accordance to these guidelines. These guidelines were inspired and derived from the Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Thus the Posh Act is an output of the Guidelines and the Convention. It was enacted to look into the safety of the women working class. The Act lays down specific methods of relief for women who undergoes such sexually improper experience at the place of work.

Disrobing a woman (354B)

It involves assault or inflicting criminal force to a woman with the intent to disrobe her or forcing her to remain in nudity. It punishes the wrongdoer with an imprisonment of three years which may extend to seven years along with a fine.

Voyeurism (Section 354C)

Under this provision, whoever indulges in the act of capturing images of a woman, who is engrossed in some kind of private act, with the knowledge that she is not being noticed by the wrongdoer or any other person, and the perpetrator further disseminates such image is said to be held under this section.

For capturing of the image, the perpetrator is punished with a an imprisonment of one year, which may be extended to three years. Further if the perpetrator disseminates the image after capturing it, he may be punished with an imprisonment of three years which may extend to seven years along with a fine.

Stalking (Section 354D)

This section basically throws light on the act of following or trying to contact a woman despite her being disinterested in doing so. It basically involves two kinds of acts, firstly where the man tries to follow or communicate a woman, even when she has expressed her disinterest for the same. Secondly, where a man tries to stalk or follow a woman�s online activities through internet as a media.

The punishment for the first instance may include a maximum of three years of imprisonment with a fine, whereas the second case may involve a punishment of five years coupled with a fine.

However, it is to be noted that when a person follows a woman, so as to prevent or examine a crime or in discharge of his public duty, the same shall not be considered a wrongful act under this very section.

Selling of minor for the purpose of prostitution (Section 372)

Whoever sells off, lets to hire or disposes off any minor girl for the purpose of illicit intercourse with anyone or for prostitution or unlawful and immoral activities shall be punished according to this section for an imprisonment of ten years and shall also be liable to a fine.

Insulting the modesty of a woman (Section 509)

When any person, with the intention to humiliate the modesty of any woman, makes any sound, utters any word or advances any kind of gesture or displays any object, with the purpose that such sound shall be heard, such gesture shall be noticed or such object shall be seen or trespasses into the privacy of a woman, shall be held liable under this section with a simple imprisonment of a term which can extend to one year or a fine or both.

Crimes Related To Marriage

Cruelty caused by husband or relatives of husband (Section 498A)

Section 498A was brought to picture in the year 1987, after an increase in the number of cases of cruelty against women. According to a report by National Crimes Bureau, published in 2012, around 8,233 incidences of dowry deaths were reported and 1,06,527 cases of cruelty by husband or his relatives were reported under this very section. [7]

This bears testimony to the upward trend of crimes related to marriage in India. Thus this section aims to curb the growing menace of cruelty towards married woman, where she finally succumbs to her death.

Under this section, any married woman or widow who is subjected to cruelty by her husband or the relatives of her husband in relation to dowry or any such willful conduct by the husband or his relatives which pushes the woman to commit suicide or causes serious injury to her limbs, life or death is said to be a victim under Section 498A of the code. Such kind of an injury may be either physical injury or mental injury.

Dowry Death (Section 304B)

Dowry is a kind of consideration which is paid on behalf of the bride or her family to the groom or his family, as an agreement to marry her. India has the most number of dowry deaths in the world. In 2015, as many as 7,634 women succumbed to their deaths in India, due to harassment for dowry.

Twenty-one dowry deaths are reported across the territories of our nation every day, whereas the conviction rate is only 34.7 per cent.[8] To act as a check, the Dowry Prohibition Act was introduced in 1961 which prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of dowry. On the other hand Section 304B of IPC deals with deaths in relation to dowry.

According to Section 304(1), A woman must surrender to her death due to burns or other bodily injuries, which would not have otherwise occurred in the normal course of circumstances, within seven years of her marriage, by being subjected to cruelty by her husband or any relative of her husband, in connection to dowry and not otherwise. Such a barbarity must be proved soon after her death.

The condition of our country has been degenerating day by day. The patriarchal and prejudiced mindset has subjugated the moral notions of equality. In our country, where we commemorate the contributions of women like Malala Yousafzai, Kiran Bedi and Mary Kom, we also learn about cases like Nirbhaya, Laxmi Aggarwal and Aruna Shanbaug which well up our eyes with tears and leave behind traces of despondence.

For these victims, the society has been dystopian. Even after having a plethora of laws and statutes for empowerment and protection, women still are belittled even to this day. It is the need of the hour that these extortionists and perpetrators receive punishment in such a stringent method that it prevents others from committing the same offence. Legal awareness should reach each and every corners of the country so that women are enlightened about their rights and can raise a voice whenever needed.

The judicial fraternity along with the bureaucrats and the civilians with proper cooperation and awareness can bring about a change which we have been dreaming of, since so many decades now. All need to understand that, security of women and the egalitarian culture are sine quo non for the country�s advancement. The day our Indian women would be able to walk on the streets safely, even at the darkest hour of the night, that day we shall rightfully celebrate the spirits of a free nation, which our ancestors had dreamt of.

  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860
  2. Indian Kanoon
  6. AIR 1997 SCC 3011
  7. National Crime Records Bureau�s Report, 2012

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Anushreya Chakraborty
    Awarded certificate of Excellence
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