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Laws to curb the increased crimes on women in India

India was once personified as Mother India. The land of rich culture, moral values, where a girl child is worshipped as a goddess during Kanya-pooja a popular Hindu festival the same are being exploited daily in some of the other ways in the Indian society today. Women are living a life of death here, they are always in a fear of falling prey to crimes like rapes, acid attacks, and many more.

Not a day passes without a horrific incident of sexual violence against girls, some as young as two years old, some still younger. The rape of girls is now reaching epidemic proportions, which will have far-reaching consequences on our society and our place in the world. A report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation released recently claimed that India is the most unsafe country for women.

No country can progress for too long without contribution from women. Indian society tends to limit the discourse on the safety of girls to certain clichés : they begin with falling child sex ratio due to female foeticide and end at women's reservation in government jobs.

The safety of girls goes beyond these tropes and directly affects our country's socio-economic progress. Tied to the safety of girls is their ability to empower themselves with education and self-belief. It is not difficult to imagine that if one felt threatened all the time, empowerment will always play the second fiddle to survival.

Today, despite universal enrolment and robust efforts by the government to close the gender gap, we find that our daughters of Mother India continue to feel unsafe in their neighborhoods, schools, and public spaces, and even at their homes. Staying outside at night alone is beyond their imagination, they cannot take that risk at all. The feeling of being under threat of emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual violence is an everyday reality of most Indian girls.

More than 8000 women die because of dowry and 70% are scared to report it thinking about their family reputation and sacrificing their life instead. Recent statistics say India recorded an average of 87 rape cases daily in 2019 and overall 4,05,861 cases of crime against women during the year, a rise of over 7% from 2018, the latest government data released on September 29, 2020.

The country recorded 3,78,236 cases of crimes against women in 2018, the data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed.

A total of 32,033 cases of rape were lodged in 2019, which was 7.3% of all crimes against women during the year, the data showed. This indicates the enormity and pensiveness of the monstrosity perpetrated against women in recent years.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860, lays down the provisions to penalize the culprit for the heinous offenses against women. Various sections under IPC specifically deals with such crimes.
  • Acid Attack (Sections 326A and 326B)
  • Rape (Sections 375, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D and 376E)
  • Attempt to commit rape (Section 376/511)
  • Kidnapping and abduction for different purposes (Sections 363–373)
  • Murder, Dowry death, Abetment of Suicide, etc. (Sections 302, 304B and 306)
  • Cruelty by husband or his relatives (Section 498A)
  • Outraging the modesty of women (Section 354)
  • Sexual harassment (Section 354A)
  • Assault on women with intent to disrobe a woman (Section 354B)
  • Voyeurism (Section 354C)
  • Stalking (Section 354D
  • Importation of girls up to 21 years of age (Section 366B)
  • Word, gesture, or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman (Section 509)
  • Rape [Section 375 & 376]

Rape [Section 375 & 376]

Section 375, IPC defines rape. In simple terms, the offense of rape is the ravishment of a woman, without her consent, by force, fraud, or fear. In other words, it is the carnal knowledge (penetration of any of the slightest degree of the male organ of reproduction) of any woman by force against her will. It is an obnoxious act of the highest degree which violates the right to privacy and sanctity of a female. Apart from being a dehumanizing and perverted act, it is also an unlawful interference in the personal life of a woman which is an intense blow on the honor, dignity, reputation, and self-esteem of a woman. This outrageous crime not only causes physical injury to the victim but also humiliates, degrades, and leaves a scar on the most precious jewel of a woman i. e. her character and dignity.

Essential Ingredients of Rape

Section 375 has the following two essential ingredient:

Actus Reus: There must be sexual intercourse, as understood in terms of the provisions of Section 375 (a) to (d), with a woman by a man.

Mens Rea:

The sexual intercourse must be under any of the seven circumstances as given under Section 375.

Punishment for Rape (Section 376)

  • Section 376 provides punishment for committing the heinous crime of rape. This section is divided into two sub-sections.
  • Section 376(1) provides a minimum sentence of seven years of imprisonment that may extend to life imprisonment and fine.
  • Section 376(2) provides punishment not less than ten years of imprisonment but may extend to imprisonment for life or death or fine.

Gang Rape (Section 376D)

Section 376D lays down the punishment for gang rape. Where a woman is raped by more than one person acting in furtherance of a common intention, each of them shall be liable for the offense of rape and shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for not less than twenty years which may extend to life imprisonment and fine.

Case:
Priya Patel v. the State of M.P.[1]
Facts: The prosecutrix was returning home when her sports meet and also the husband of the appellant met her at the depot and told her that her father has sent him to choose her. He took her to his house and raped them. throughout the commission of rape, the appellant (the wife) entered the space and the prosecutrix asked for assistance however rather than saving her, the appellant cuffed her and closed the door, and left the place of the incident. The defendant's husband was charged underneath Section 376, IPC whereas the appellant spouse was charged for commission of an offense punishable underneath Section 376(2)(g), IPC.

The appellant spouse challenged the lawfulness of the charge framed against her underneath Section 376(2)(g), IPC on the bottom that since a lady cannot commit rape and then can't be condemned for the commission of gang rape.

Judgment: The court command that a lady cannot aforesaid to own AN intention to commit rape. Therefore, the appellant can't be prosecuted for alleged commission of AN offense punishable underneath Section 376(2)(g)

Outraging the Modesty of Women [Section 354]

Section 354, IPC deals with the offense of molestation i.e. assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty. This section aims to protect women against any sort of indecent or filthy behavior by others which are derogatory to her modesty. This offense is not just against the individual but also society and public morality. Therefore, if any person uses criminal fore upon a woman to outrage the modesty of a woman, he is deemed to be punished with an imprisonment of not less than one year which may extend up to five years with a fine.

It is not specifically defined under IPC that what constitutes an outrage to a woman's modesty. However, the court has interpreted it in various cases. According to the Supreme Court, modesty is an attribute associated with female human beings as a class. Modesty is said to be outraged by such an act of offender which shocks and recognizes as an insult to female decency and dignity. For example, slapping a woman on her butt, asking her for sexual favors, and disrobing her.

Essential Ingredients of Section 354

The following are the essence of the offense under Section 354, IPC:

  • The person who has been a victim of assault must be a woman
  • The accused must have used criminal force on her
  • An intention to outrage the modesty of a woman must be there.
Case:
Raju Pandurang Mahale v. State of Maharashtra [4]
Facts:
The accused brought the victim to the house of co-accused on a false pretext. They confined her in the house and brought liquor which she was forced to drink. The victim was then disrobed and her nude photographs were taken.

Judgment: The Supreme Court held that the accused was guilty under Section 354, IPC as their acts were affront on the normal sense of feminine decency.

Insulting the Modesty of Women [Section 509]

An act that is committed to insult the modesty of a woman which may not necessarily involve any physical force is brought under the shade of this provision through Section 509. This section intends to deter any kind of aggression into a woman's modesty whether by any word, gesture, or act or by intruding upon the privacy of such woman. This section is known as the 'Eve Teasing Section'.

Any person who commits an offense under Section 509 shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term that may extend to three years with a fine.

Essential Ingredients
This section requires:
  • An intention to insult the modesty of a woman;
  • The insult must be caused either by intruding upon the privacy of a woman; or by making any gesture or sound, uttering any word, or exhibiting any object.

New Offences relating to Women

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 added many new sections in the IPC, keeping in view the various new forms of offensive activities hampering the safety and dignity of women.

Some are discussed below:

Disrobing a Woman (Stripping) [Section 354B]

Section 354B penalizes the offense of assaulting or using criminal force on a woman or abetting any such act to disrobe or compel her to be naked, with a punishment of not less than three years which may extend to seven years with a fine. It is a gender-specific offense i.e. only a man can be punished under this section.

Ingredients:
  • The accused must be a man.
  • Use of criminal force or assault or abetment of any such action must be there.
  • There must be an intention to disrobe a woman or compel her to be naked.

Voyeurism [Section 354C]

This offense came into existence after Nirbhaya Rape Case, 2012. It is mentioned under Section 354C, IPC. The word 'voyeurism' means appeasement derived from observing the genital or sexual acts of others usually secretly. This provision is divided into two different parts. Firstly, when a person watches or captures an image of a woman engaging in some private act and secondly when the person disseminates or spread such an image.

The first offense is punishable with imprisonment of not less than one year which may extend up to three years with a fine. The second offense is punishable with imprisonment of not less than three years which may extend up to seven years with a fine.

Ingredients:
  • The accused must be a male.
  • He must watch or capture the image.
  • The woman whose images are captured must be engaged in some private act.
  • The circumstances must be such that she has the expectations of not being. observed by the perpetrator; or
  • The accused disseminates that image.

Stalking [Section 354D]

Section 354D, IPC enunciates The term 'stalking' which generally means the act of following or trying to contact despite the disinterest of women. This section contains two offenses. Firstly, where a man follows or contacts or tries to contact a woman frequently despite her clear indication of disinterest, and secondly, where a man monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email, or any other form of electronic communication.

For the first conviction, the punishment prescribed is imprisonment for a term that may prolong to three years with a fine. The punishment for a second conviction may extend up to five years of imprisonment with a fine.

Ingredients:
  • The accused must be a man and the victim must be a woman.
  • Follow or contact a woman or attempt to reach; or
  • Monitors the use by the woman of the internet, email, or any other electronic communication.
  • Despite the disinterest of women.

What does not amount to Stalking?

Section 354D has a proviso connected to it which carves out an anomaly to this offense. If a part of the obligation is imposed on a person by the State to prevent and inspect any crime and such acts must be pursued by any law and in the particular circumstances such conduct of the person must be logical and justified then, it will not amount to stalking.

Acid Attack [Section 326A & 326B]

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 incorporated Section 326A and 326B to make specific provisions for punishment in the case of an acid attack.

Section 326A focuses on voluntarily causing grievous hurt by using acid. In the view of this section, whosoever causes lasting or partial injury or burns, disfigures or disables any part of the body of a person or causes grievous hurt by throwing or administering acid to cause such injury or hurt will be punished with imprisonment of at least ten years which may extend to life imprisonment with fine.

Section 326B has a more legislative emphasis on the act of throwing or attempting to throw acid to cause grievous hurt. The punishment under this section is imprisonment of not less than five years with a fine that may extend up to seven years.

Essential Ingredients of Acid Attack:

The following are the requisites of an acid attack:

  • permanent/partial damage/deformity/burn/disfigure/disable any part of the body of any person; or
  • Grievous hurt by throwing acid; or
  • By using any other means;
  • There must be an intention to cause injury or hurt.

Sexual Harassment [Section 354A]

This new provision was originated in a judgment of the Supreme Court dealing with the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace. Through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, Section 354A was inserted in the IPC which defines the offense of 'sexual harassment' and set down punishment for it.

According to Section 354A, a person shall be guilty of the offense of sexual harassment against a woman in the following circumstances:
  • If he makes physical contact and advances unwelcome and explicit sexual act;
  • Demands or requests for sexual favors;
  • Shows pornography against the will of a woman;
  • Make sexually colored remarks.

The punishment for the offenses specified under Section 354A (1) (i) to (iii) is the rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or both and in the case of sub-clause (iv), it is imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or both.

In 2013, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was enacted to protect women against sexual harassment at the workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints regarding the matter of sexual harassment or any such incident thereto.

Offenses related to Marriage

Cruelty by Husband or his Relatives [Section 498A]
A separate chapter of IPC deals with the issues of cruelty by a husband or his relatives under Section 498A, IPC. the objective behind the introduction of this provision was to penalize the husband and his relatives who torture, ill-treat and harass a woman to compel her or any other person related to her to meet any illegal demands.

This section has given a new dimension to the concept of cruelty which is the essence of this section, for matrimonial relief. Not every type of cruelty will attract Section 498A. It has been spoken of under the section that what kind of cruelty is included hereby.

The punishment for this offense is imprisonment for a term that may extend to three years with a fine.

Essential Ingredients:

To constitute an offense under Section 498A, the following are the essential conditions:

  • The victim must be a married woman/widow.
  • She has been subjected to cruelty by her husband or his relatives.
  • Such cruelty consisted of either-
    1. Harassment of a woman to coerce her meeting demand of dowry; or
    2. Willful conduct by the husband or his relatives of such a nature as is likely to lead the lady to commit suicide or to cause grave injury to her life, limb, or health
  • That such injury was committed either physically or mentally.

Dowry Death [Section 304B]

Dowry deaths and bride burning are heinous act which is still prevailing in the Indian society. It is an indication of a special social illness and is unfortunate development of our society. For this significant matter, the special provision was inserted under IPC through Section 304B which deals with dowry deaths.

Section 304B (1) defines dowry death whereas clause (2) lays down its punishment which is not less than seven years and may extend to life imprisonment.

Essential Ingredients of Dowry Death

The following ingredients of the offense need to be established:

  • The demise of a woman must be caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under ordinary circumstances.
  • Such death must occur within seven years of marriage.
  • The woman must have been subjected to cruelty by her husband or any other relative of her husband.
  • Such brutality must be in connection with the demand for dowry.
  • Such brutality must be shown out soon before her death.

We get into emotional mode and courage follows after any crime against women. Some talk about aspects like women should be trained by parents to slain public and beat up a man who offends and many other versions are coming up. Essentially and all sexual crimes have their roots in a conservative society.

If we want to solve the problem, we have to take bold steps like making prostitution legal and taboo on sex should be removed. A man and woman should be able to have consented sex in their privacy any time they want to do it. Are we ready to address all these issues?

Without being ready for the solution, shouting and screaming for few days and then again falling back to the same conservative life won't take anyone anywhere. Criminal justice is the ultimate thing but society cannot run entirely by the judiciary, there should be an evolution in the people involved.

Conclusion
Every time a daughter of India is raped it is the Mother India who bleeds because of shame, and the danger they are prone to every day.Notwithstanding the amount of laws to protect and safeguard the rights and interests of women, the rate of crime against women and victimization is mushrooming day by day. Therefore I think rapid justice to heinous criminal cases relating to women should be done also the punishments should be more rigorous. However only laws are not liable to regulate and control the growth of the crimes against women in our society.

The suppression of evil eyes on women and inculcation of social principles, morals, and values, respect, and honor in every human being towards women is the need of the hour and is a supplementing factor that can equally contribute to curtailing the number of crimes against women. However, there is an exigency of more strict and stringent laws so that any person intending to commit such crimes couldn't screw up.

References:
  1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_Law_(Amendment)_Act,_2013#:~:text=The%20Criminal%20Law%20(Amendment)%20Act%2C%202013%20(Nirbhaya%20Act, laws%20related%20to%20sexual%20offence
  2. https://blog.ipleaders.in/offences-against-women
  3. https://www.mondaq.com/india/human-rights/795312/women-centric-changes-in-indian-law
  4. https://thewire.in/women/average-87-rape-cases-daily-over-7-rise-in-crimes-against-women-in-2019-ncrb-data
  5. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-42436817

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