This article has been written by Akansha Agrawal.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Introduction 

Voyeurism in simple terms can be termed as an intrusion into someone’s privacy without their consent by way of observing someone secretly and not in public places, watching someone performing intimate acts such as undressing, sexual activity and obtaining pleasure out of it. This concept has its origin in the French term ‘voir’ meaning to see, and the person performing this act is termed as voyeur in French which means ‘the one who is seeing’ and he is also termed as ‘peeping toms’ casually.  Voyeurism might be considered as a perversion, it can also be compared to a mere fantasy. But to be precise it just means observing others and not being a part of those acts, voyeur might also not know the person being observed or he might have no connection attached to it. 

Voyeurism per se is a very normal act and nothing to be ashamed of, it is a proven fact that sexual desire or sexual urge is the leading, dominant force in human beings, it becomes a problem when due to this urge someone intrudes in our privacy. Voyeurism could also become a disorder and there is a  very thin line between both of them. Voyeurism disorder is known as a paraphilic disorder, these are basically the urges causing pain in the individual. In this, the urge is persistent and intense for a period of around six months and then only this persistence could be termed as a disorder.

Origin and relevance 

The concept of voyeurism has its relevance from US Laws there in 18 U.S. Code Section 1801- Video voyeurism. 

The laws passed by the amendment 2008, have proved to be very useful as after that we could observe from the NCRB statistics that there had been a huge rise in the cases lodged of video voyeurism. Also,  in recent years the cases have declined a bit, which is something positive about the law as it shows that people are now informed as the cases rose and then it declined, but this in no way means that we can now ignore this issue as the people are well informed about it, because that is not the case. Through the case of bois locker room mentioned below also, we could analyze and conclude how important it is to make more of these stricter laws in this regard.

Electronic voyeurism 

The concept of voyeurism is similar to that of electronic voyeurism, the main difference being it covers much more arenas than simple voyeurism mentioned in section 354C of IPC,1860 which states what is voyeurism and its punishment. This section of IPC is not confined only to the electronic mode, and it only includes women as the victim whereas electronic voyeurism dealt with in section 66E of the IT  Act,2000 is gender neutral. Earlier this concept was not included in the realm of IT Act, but it had been inserted in it by way of amendment done in the year 2008. The amendment was very important  as there had been a rapid growth in the use of computers and the internet in publishing sexually explicit  materials in electronic form and there had to be punitive punishments for the same. This perversion  also intrudes in our Right to Privacy mentioned in article 21 of the constitution, which is our  fundamental right, so if somebody tries to infringe our fundamental right, strict action should be taken  upon that so that our right remains safe, and for this reason too this amendment was required. 

The difference between voyeurism and electronic voyeurism is the same as the difference between  section 354C of IPC and section 66E of the IT Act of whose comparative analysis is as under 

There have been many situations where there had been clashes between the punishments for the  offence there in IPC as well as IT Act, the main difference being the type of media- IPC being in the  offline media whereas IT Act being in the online media. Now talking precisely about voyeurism- it is  a cognizable offence under IPC whereas that is not the case in IT Act. Also, the punishment for the  offence there in IPC is imprisonment for a term not less than 3 years, it could also go up to 7 years,  where fine can also be applicable. Whereas in case of the IT Act, punishment is mentioned as  imprisonment which might extend up to 3 years or fine which could extend up to two lakh rupees.  So, there are differences between the punishments in both but it had been mentioned in the case of  Sharat Babu Digumarti v. Government of NCT of Delhi1that in case of any conflict, IT Act will  prevail as it is a special law, IPC being a general law as the this was only the legislative intent of the  lawmakers. 

The case of “bois locker room” 

One of the famous cases that we have seen in our surroundings is the bois locker room case where men have created an Instagram group in which approx. hundred south Delhi boys were there which rose the rape culture already existing there. They used to share sexually explicit content in the group including  naked pictures of minor girls showing their genitals, breasts, etc. without their consent. They used to  slut shame them, promote rape, and objectify them. In this case, we see the solid toxic masculinity that was present in these teenage boys, we have many cases of misogyny in our surroundings and this was one of them, a strong dislike for women present in men which is torment for our society. 

Now, this is also a type of voyeurism, where men are taking pictures of women or sharing their pictures when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This is cybercrime as it was done in the electronic mode so this case includes Section 66E of the IT Act, 2000. This case had the benefit of being a  cognizable offence as this case also falls under voyeurism mentioned in IPC. 

Through this case we also realize present is the scenario of modern technologies, where people will have more technology, and so more misuse of the same. So, stricter laws will be needed in the coming future for the betterment of our society and so that these type of cases decline and there is due adherence to the law. 

Also, people are not much aware of the laws that we have in India related to voyeurism, and often gets subjected to these kind of offences. Having no or very little idea about the laws and its punishment, the victim gets suffered more as they do not complaint and the assailant gets more freedom to practice these offences. So, people actually needs to be more aware of this. Also, to control  such desires, one could turn to psychotherapy, support groups, and medication for the assailant.

Voyeurism being gender-neutral 

The victim’s or accused’s gender is not stated in Section 66E. Prior to Section 354C of the IPC, there  was no such provision and only women were given this protection. This clause shows a significant  improvement in gender neutrality. It is evident from the description of voyeurism in Section 354C  that the section is gender-specific and only applies to the taking of pictures. A more recent law was  introduced to get around these limits. Neither gender nor the act of photographing people is limited  by Section 66E of the IT Act, 2000. The section explicitly makes its approach gender neutral by using  phrases like whoever, his or her. Additionally, the word “capture” in this section’s explanation (b) is  defined as “to videotape, photograph, film, or record by any means with respect to an image,” which  makes it obvious that the section’s scope extends beyond just taking still photos and includes  videography. Regardless of gender, the provision establishes a unique penalty for violating bodily  privacy. This offence has a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a maximum fine of two  lakh rupees, or both. This demonstrates the section’s deterrence power. Furthermore, a male who  violates Section 354C of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hence referred to as the IPC) may face a  sentence of three years to seven years in prison as well as a fine. Due to the poor status of women in  society and to ensure that they are accorded equal status as per Article 14 of the Constitution, there is  a disparity between the two categories.

Conclusion 

In India, voyeurism is becoming more prevalent as a sex crime, and the use of technology in the execution of such crimes has made matters worse. Cyberspace is growing every day, which increases the potential for abuse because, in a matter of seconds, an image could be seen by millions of people, damaging the victim’s reputation. For both the victims and their families, voyeurism causes wounds that will never be forgotten. Given how far technology has come, India’s laws ought to be strong enough to prevent such crimes. To ensure that no more lives are devastated by these sex-obsessed maniacs, the government must act swiftly to fight voyeurism.

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