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Offence Of Outraging The Modesty Of Women In India

"Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture, or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development, and peace."-- Kofi Annan

Since the beginning of time, women have been confronted with a variety of crimes. A female might be a victim just by virtue of her gender. Female infanticide is one of the most heinous crimes committed in India. It is disheartening that the occurrence of crimes against women is so severe that the Indian laws have numerous provisions in place to prevent them. Murder, domestic violence, and sexual offences are common types of violence against women in India.

Rape and murder are the most heinous crimes a man may perpetrate against a woman. However, certain crimes that outrage a woman's modesty and are less serious than rape have been codified in the Indian Penal Code.

What does outraging a woman's modesty mean?
The Indian criminal law does not define modesty. However, in State of Punjab v Major Singh, AIR SC 63 : (1967), the apex court defined modesty as " the essence of a woman's modesty is her sex. The modesty of an adult is writ large on her body. Young or old, intelligent or imbecile, awake or sleeping, the woman possesses modesty capable of being outraged." Section 354 of the IPC punishes anybody who uses criminal force with the intent to outrage a woman. Section 354 outlines three kinds of acts that are considered to be offending decency of a woman.

Firstly, Sexual Harassment as mentioned in s 354A

Secondly, Voyeurism as mentioned in s 354C, and

Thirdly, Stalking as mentioned in s 354D.

All the three abovementioned offences were inserted in the IPC by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.

What amounts to Sexual harassment?
The following actions are categorized as sexual harassment.
  1. Unwanted and blatant sexual approaches in physical contact and advances;
  2. A request or demand for sexual favours;
  3. Displaying pornography against a woman's will; and
  4. Making sexually provocative statements.

The penalty is listed in the section as well. For the first three actions, the punishment is rigorous imprisonment for up to three years, or a fine, or both. While the last is punishable by a year of simple or rigorous imprisonment, a fine, or both.

Have you ever been anxious that you might be being recorded in a suite room or a clothing trial room? Have you ever wondered what such a crime is referred to as? It's Voyeurism all the way! IPC 354C defines voyeurism. When a man watches or records a woman indulging in a private act without her knowledge, he is said to have committed the crime of voyeurism. Because the phrase "private act" is unclear, the section also specifies which activities fall under its purview. They are:
  1. When the victim's genitals, posterior, or breasts are exposed or just covered in underwear;
  2. While the victim is using the restroom;
  3. When the victim is doing a sexual act that is not normally performed in public.

What if the woman agrees to the photographing or any other act?
The perpetrator will not be held accountable if the victim grants her consent to be captured. Nevertheless, if the victim expresses a desire not to share the recordings with any third parties, and the offender disseminates to the contrary, he is absolutely considered to have committed the offence voyeurism.

Punishment: The offence is punishable with simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than one year and fine. However, if the perpetrator is found guilty on second or subsequent conviction, he shall be punished with simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term ranging between three and seven years and fine.

With the growth of social media and its widespread availability, stalking has become quite common. However, just observing someone on social media without actually following them, as most of us do, does not attract the offence of stalking as written in the Indian Penal Code. A man can be charged with stalking if he:
  1. Follows a woman and contacts or attempts to contact her to foster personal interaction on multiple occasions, despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; and
  2. Monitors a woman's use of the internet, email, or any other form of electronic communication.


Hello there, creepy sneaky stalker! Watch out if you can relate to any of the activities listed above! You may be put behind the bars for a term which may extend to 3 years upon your first conviction and up to 5 years upon your second or subsequent conviction. You will also be liable for a fine.

Exceptions to the rule of stalking:
A man cannot be held guilty of stalking when he pursues a woman:
  1. to prevent and detect a crime as a part of his responsibility imposed on him by the state;
  2. to obey with any law imposed by person under any law; and
  3. in the specific circumstances that make his conduct reasonable and justified.

Sections 354A, 354C, AND 354D are created to safeguard women from certain indecent and abnormal acts committed by a few men.

Outraging a woman's modesty and abetment to suicide:
Outraging a woman's modesty itself is not an open-and-shut offence. Severe consequences may flow from such an inhumane and immoral act. When a woman is molested or her modesty is outraged, she is engulfed by an unsolicited python of mental trauma. In several such instances, out of shame, depression and trauma, she commits suicide. The man who outraged her modesty is now guilty of both IPC section 354 and section 306, i.e., for an abetment to suicide. In one such decided case, the Madras High Court convicted a man in 2015 for both outraging the modesty of the victim as well as aiding and abetting her suicide.

The privilege of protective discrimination, as identified by the Indian Constitution, allows women victims to have remedial laws tailored specifically to them. IPC 354 is an example of such legislation.

When dealing with such laws, the judiciary must be extremely cautious and precise, as a few women may use them arbitrarily. As a result, certain innocent men may be threatened and unjustly punished for crimes they did not commit. Fear of being judged, shame, a lack of knowledge on how to deal with such unfamiliar situations, and a lack of awareness of laws are all reasons why many women do not raise their voices. Ignorance is more dangerous than illiteracy. Let us spread awareness, and it is our responsibility to make the unaware aware.

  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860, Bare Act.
  2. P S A Pillai's CRIMINAL LAW, 14th Edition

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Sivathmika Reddy Chaganti
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: JL355918642665-12-0723

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