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Voyeurism and provisions dealing it in India

Nowadays we have seen a rapid increase in cybercrimes. We came across many disgraceful crimes against women. Almost every woman in society faces sexual harassment sometimes even from a very younger age but most such cases go unnoticed.

At present, we are living in the era of the internet where the transfer and misuse of any sort of content, videos, or photos is just a matter of seconds. Voyeurism is a crime that simply invades the privacy of the person. So we must know about the provisions in the Indian laws to prevent these kinds of crimes and punish the convicted.

Origin and Definition
This word originated from the French words, Voyeur, and Voir, which means one who views and to view respectively, and from the Latin term videre, which means to see.

Voyeurism is a noun that refers to the act of gaining sexual pleasure from watching people in their sexual situations or other words observing their private life or activities. People who are voyers gain sexual gratification by watching people while they are engaged in their sexual or private activities.

An important element of Voyeurism is that the person or people who are being observed or watched are under the belief that they have some sort of privacy.

A causal term for voyeurism is also peeping tom´┐Ż. Sometimes voyeurism can also turn into paraphilic disorders involving sexual fantasies that cause distress.

Development of laws on Voyeurism in India

Before 2013, there were not any stringent laws for offenses like stalking, rape, or acid attacks but after the Nirbhaya rape case in 2012, Justice Verma Committee introduced Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013, this amendment introduced voyeurism as an offense in India under section 354(c) of Indian Penal Code, 1860 along with some other amendments but the offenses of voyeurism and stalking in IPC were not introduced in a gender-neutral way, these offenses can only be committed by a man towards women.

Provisions under IPC prescribed for the offense of Voyeurism

According to the wording of Section 354(c) of IPC, any man who watches or captures the images of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectations of not being observed either by a perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such images shall be punished on the first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than 1 year, but which may extend to 3 years, and shall also be liable for fine, and be punished on second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description of the term which shall not be less than 3 years, but may extend to 7 years, and shall be liable for a fine.

Explanation 1:
For this section, private act includes an act of watching carried out in a place which, in the circumstances, would reasonably be expected to provide privacy and where the victim's genitals, posterior and breasts, and exposed or covered only in underwear; or the victim is using a lavatory; or the victim is doing a sexual act that is not of a kind ordinarily done in public.

Explanation 2:
where the victim consents to the capture of the image or any act, but not to their dissemination to a third person and where such image or any act, but not to their dissemination to the third person and where such image or act is disseminated, such dissemination shall be considered an offense under this section.

If anyone is accused and convicted under this section then:
  • He will be detained for either description of a minimum of one year which can be extended up to three years and also liable for a fine if he is convicted for the first time.
  • But on second or subsequent conviction, the person will be detained for either description between the range of three years to seven years, and the person will be liable for the fine also.

Electronic Voyeurism

Voyeurism and Electronic voyeurism, both cover a similar topic but the major difference is that electronic voyeurism covers much more areas than Voyeurism mentioned in section 354c of IPC,1860. Unlike voyeurism under section 354c of IPC, electronic voyeurism is mentioned in section 66E of the IT Act, 2000. Initially, this concept was not included in the realm of the IT Act, but it had been added to it through an amendment done in the year 2008.

This amendment played a vital role because at that time the usage of electronics was growing rapidly and also the publication of sexually explicit content on the internet was rising and there was a need for punitive punishments for the same.

There have been many circumstances where there had been a confrontation between the punishments for the offense there in IPC as well as the IT Act the major distinction being the type of media IPC being an offline media whereas the IT Act being an online media. Although the punishment for the offense there in IPC is imprisonment for a term not less than one year, it could also go up to seven years, where a fine can also be applicable. whereas in the case of the IT Act, punishment is described as imprisonment which might extend up to 2 lakh rupees. So there are differences between the punishments in both in case of any conflict, the IT Act will prevail as it is a special law, IPC being a general law as this was the only legislative intent of the lawmakers.

In India, voyeurism is day by day becoming a sex crime, and the use of technology in the performance of such crimes had made the matter terrible. As cyberspace is booming every day, which increases the potential for abuse because just in a matter of seconds, an image could be seen by millions of people, damaging their reputation. For both the victim and their families, voyeurism causes some unforgettable wounds, which harms their reputation in society.

It is also observed that many of the victims of voyeurism suicide. So that is why India's law ought to be strong enough to protect victims and prevent such crimes so that no life will be devasted by any of these maniacs. The government must act swiftly to prevent voyeurism.

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