This article is written by Neha Gururani, a student of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi. In this article, she has discussed the provisions relating to the offences against women under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 with some landmark case laws.
In the present scenario, the violence and the increasing crimes against women is witnessed by everyone across the world in some or the other manner. It indicates the enormity and pensiveness of the monstrosity perpetrated against women in recent years. The global crusade for the decimation of violence against women is a proof to this fact. The changes in the living standards, lifestyle, imbalance in the economic growth, changes in social ethos and meagre concern for the moral values contribute to a vicious outlook towards women due to which there is multiplication in crimes against women. Moreover, such incidents are a matter of grave concern and its structure is absolutely necessary so that the women of India could live with respect, honour, dignity, liberty and peace in an atmosphere free from atrocities, denigration and heinous crimes.
There are many legal provisions which punish the culprits committing offences against women. The Indian Penal Code though, provides provisions for women as a victim of many crimes such as murder, robbery, theft, etc. but there are certain crimes which are diametrically characterised against the women known as ‘Offences Against Women’. With the need of the hour, many new socio-economic offences have been enacted accompanied by various amendments in the existing laws with an objective to combat these crimes effectually.
Classification of Laws related to Crime against Women
The laws associated with the crime against women may be classified into following two categories: Crimes against Women under the Special and Local Laws (SLL)
The crimes against women provided under the Special and Local Laws aim to obliterate the immoral and sinful practices and exploitation of women in the society. These laws are periodically reviewed and amended in order to bring off promptness with arising needs. Following are some acts comprising of special provisions to protect women and their interests-
- The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
- The Dowry (Prohibition) Act, 1961
- The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
- The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
- The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
Crimes against Women under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC)
The Indian Penal Code, 1860, lays down the provisions to penalise the culprit for the heinous offences 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 upto 21 years of age (Section 366B)
- Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman (Section 509)
This article further scrutinizes and expounds some of these odious and punishable offences as mentioned under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Sexual Offences against Women
The Indian Penal Code mentions sexual offences against women under a separate head which encompasses the following offences with their respective sections-
Rape [Section 375 & 376]
Section 375, IPC defines rape. In simple terms, the offence 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 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 futhereance of a common intention, each of them shall be liable for the offence of rape and shall be ounished with rigourous imprisonment for not less than twenty years which may extend to lifetime imprisonment and fine.
Relevant Case Laws
Facts: The prosecutrix was returning home after her sports meet and the husband of the appellant met her at the railway station and told her that her father has sent him to pick her. He took her to his house and raped. During the commission of rape, appellant (the wife) entered the room and prosecutrix asked for the help but instead of savinf her, the appellant slapped her and closed tthe door and left the place of the incident. The accused husband was charged under Section 376, IPC whereas the appellant wife was charged for commission of offence punishable under Section 376(2)(g), IPC.
The appellant wife challenged the legality of the charge framed against her under Section 376(2)(g), IPC on the ground that since a woman cannot commit rape and so cannot be convicted for commission of ‘gang rape’.
Judgment: The court held that a woman cannot said to have an intention to commit rape. Therefore, the appellant cannot be prosecuted for alleged commission of an offence punishable under Section 376(2)(g).
Facts: Mathura, a Harijan girl developed intimacy with a boy, Ashoka. Her brother lodged a report in the Police Station that Mathura had been kidnapped by Ashok. After sometime, Mathura was brought to the Police Station and statement was recorded. Since, it was late at night, so there were two constables (appellants) present at the police station at the time. The appellants asked Mathura to stay at the police station and asked her companions to wait outside. One of the appellants took her into the washroom and light a torch focusing on her private parts and thereafter dragged her and raped in spite of her protests. Then, the other appellant came and wanted to rape her but couldn’t as he was highly toxicated. Since, all the lights of the police station was off and nothing was visible, the companions of Mathura called her name and shortly afterwards, Mathura emerged out of the police station and alleged that one of the constables had raped her. The crowd became aggressive and so, her FIR was lodged on behalf of her statement. Doctor’s report stated that there was no injury on the body of Mathura. Her hymen revealed old ruptures. The appellants contended that since there was no direct evidence about the nature of the consent of the girl to the alleged act of sexual intercourse, it can be inferred from the available circumstances that she did this with her passive submission.
Judgment: The court held that no marks of injury was found on the body of the girl after the incident and this indicates that the intecourse was a peaceful affair and the story made by the girl was fictitious. Therefore, no offence is brought against the appellants.
This case is popularly known as ‘Mathura Rape Case’.
After this case, it was interpreted by the Apex Court in many cases that to constitute the offence of rape, it is not important that there must be some injury on the body of the victim.
Outraging the Modesty of Women [Section 354]
Section 354, IPC deals with the offence of molestation i.e. assault to woman with intent to outrage her modesty. This section aims to protect women against any sort of indecent or filthy behaviour by others which is derogatory to her modesty. This offence is not just against the individual but also against the society and public morality. Therefore, if any person uses criminal fore upon a woman with an intention 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 upto five years with fine.
It is not specifically defined under IPC that what constitutes an outrage to 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 favours, disrobing her etc.
Essential Ingredients of Section 354
The following are the essential of the offence 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.
Relevant case laws
Facts: The petitioner was an IAS Officer and accused was DGP, Punjab. The petitioner was invited to a party where the accused was also present. The accused asked the petitioner to come and sit next to him and when she went to sit, he pulled the chair closer to him and the petitioner was surprised by this act and she pulled her chair back to original place and again he pulled the chair closed to him. The petitioner asked him to leave but he again asked petitioner to accompany him in a commanding voice. She got apprehended and frightened and immediately pulled her chair back and turned to get out. At this point, the accused slapped the butt of the petitioner in the presence of all the guests which was very embarrassing for her. She filed an FIR against him.
Judgment: The High Court quashed the FIR and held that the act was covered under Section 95, IPC.
The Supreme Court disagreed with the High Court and held that quashing FIR is illegal and Section 95, IPC is not at all applicable. The court further added that when an offence relates to the modesty of women, it could not be trivial under any circumstance. Therefore, the accused was held liable under Section 354, IPC.
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 femanine decency.
Facts: In this case, the accused had caused injuries to the vagina of a seven and a half months old child by fingering.
Judgment: It was held that the accused was liable for outraging the modesty of the child under Section 354, IPC. The court further added that the essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex. Young-old, intelligent or imbecile, awake or sleeping; women possesses a modesty capable of being outraged.
Insulting the Modesty of Women [Section 509]
An act which is done intending to insult the modesty of 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 also referred as the ‘Eve Teasing Section’.
Any person who commits an offence under Section 509 shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years with fine.
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 against the safety and dignity of women. Some are discussed below-
Disrobing a Woman (Stripping) [Section 354B]
Section 354B penalises the offence of assaulting or using criminal force to a woman or abetting any such act with an intention 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 offence i.e. only a man can be punished under this section.
- The accused must be man.
- Use of criminal force or assault or abetment of any such act must be there.
- There must be an intention to disrobe a woman or compel her to be naked.
Voyeurism [Section 354C]
This offence 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 ssecretly. This provision is divided in two different parts. Firstly, when a person watches or captures image of a woman engaging in some private act and secondly, when the person disseminate or spread such image.
The first offence is punishable with imprisonment of not less than one year which may extend upto three years with fine. The second offence is punishable with imprisonment of not less than three years which may extend upto seven years with fine.
- 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 talks about The term ‘stalking’ which generally means the act of following or trying to contact despite disinterest of woman. This section contains two offences. Firstly, where a man follows or contacts or attempts to contact a woman repeatedly 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 which may extend to three years with fine. The punishment for second conviction may extend up to five years of imprisonment with fine.
- The accused must be a man and victim must be a woman.
- Follow or contact a woman or attempt to contact; or
- Monitors the use by the woman of the internet, email or any other electronic communication.
- Despite disinterest of woman.
What does not amount Stalking?
Section 354D has a proviso attached to it which carves out an exception to this offence. If a part of responsibility is imposed on a person by the State to prevent and detect any crime and such acts must be pursued by any law and in the particular circumstances such conduct of the person must be reasonable and justified then, it will not amount to stalking.
Acid Attack [Section 326A & 326B]
Section 326A focuses on voluntarily causing grievous hurt by using acid. In the view of this section, whosoever causes permanent or partial damage or burns, disfigures or disables any part of the body of a person or causes grievous hurt by throwing or administering acid with an intention 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 more legislative focus on the act of throwing or attempting to throw acid with the intention of causing grievous hurt. The punishment under this section is imprisonment of not less than five years with fine which may extend upto seven years.
Essential Ingredients of Acid Attack
The following are the requisites of an acid attack-
- permanent/partial damage/deformity/burn/idfigure/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 woth the issue of sexual harassment at workplace. Through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, Section 354A was inserted in the IPC which defines the offence of ‘sexual harassment’ and set down punishment for it.
According to Section 354A, a person shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment against a woman in the following circumstances-
- If he makes physical contact and advance unwelcome and explicit sexual act;
- Demands or requests for sexual favours;
- Shows pornography against the will of a woman;
- Make sexually colored remarks.
The punishment for the offences 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 provide protection to women against sexual harassemnt at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints regarding the matter of sexual harassment or any such incident thereto.
Offences 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 punish the husband and his relatives who torture, ill-treat and harass a woman with a view to force her or any other person related to het to meet any unlawful demands.
This section has given a new dimension to the concept of cruelty which is the essence of this section, for the purpose of matrimonial relief. Not every type of cruelty will attract Section 498A. It has been mentioned under the section that what kind of cruelty is included hereby.
The punishment for this offence is imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years with fine.
To constitute an offence under Section 498A, the following are the necessary 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-
- Harassment of a woman with a view to coerce her meeting a demand of dowry; or
- A wilful 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 inflicted either physically or mentally.
Dowry Death [Section 304B]
Dowry deaths and bride burning are sinful act which are still prevailing in the Indian society. It is a symptom of a special social illness and are unfortunate developments of our society. For this serious 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 offence need to be established-
- The death of a woman must be caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances.
- Such death must occur within the period of seven years of marriage.
- The woman must have been subjected to cruelty by her husband or any other relative of her husband.
- Such cruelty must be in connection with demand of dowry.
- Such cruelty must be shown out soon before her death.
Notwithstanding the number of laws to protect and safeguard the rights and interest of the women, the rate of crime against women and victimization is mushrooming day by day. It is well said that it takes two to tango. It implies that only laws are not responsible to regulate and control the augmentation of the crimes against women in our society. The suppression of evil eyes on women and inculcation of social ethics, morals and values, respect and honor in every human being towards women is the need of the hour and is a supplement factor that can equally contribute in reducing 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 the courage to act in furtherance of his intention.
- 2006(6) SCC 263
- AIR 1979 SC 185
- 2005(6) SCC 161
- 2004(2) SCR 287
- AIR 1967 SC 63
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Bare Act)