Examining the Scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the Light of Cyber Victimization of Women in India
National Law School Journal, Vol. 11, 2013, pp. 188-218
31 Pages Posted: 27 May 2013 Last revised: 4 Jul 2014
Date Written: May 25, 2013
Cyber victimization through false, derogatory, and indecent portrayal of women; which I term as a fake avatar in the web platforms like Facebook, etc.; has become a malicious trend worldwide. India is no exception. There are no focused laws to address the issue. Even though the Information Technology Act of 2000, (amended in 2008), offers borderline help through provisions meant for punishment for publishing obscene and sexually explicit materials and sending offensive information through communication devices, these are not gender specific laws. They need to rely upon Section 509 IPC, (which prescribes punishment for word, gesture, or act harming the modesty of women); or Section 292 IPC, (which defines obscenity). But neither of these can address the issue properly.
The recent Union Cabinet decision to extend the scope of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act of 1986 (IRWA) to cover the indecent portrayal of women through audio-visual digital media including SMSs, MMSs, etc., shows a light of hope, as it is a law focused towards preventing indecent portrayal of women in general. But this paper argues that while a gender specific provision is needed to deal with victimization of women through creation of fake avatars, the broadened scope of the IRWA alone cannot bring justice to the victims.
This paper aims to formulate discussions on the basis of three questions while researching on the scope of the IRWA in issues of cyber victimization of women in India. These are: 1. Could the proposed amendments to the IRWA prove more beneficial to women who have been harassed online through fake avatars? 2. Where do the laws fail in meting out therapeutic justice to the women victims of online victimization through fake avatars? 3. What could be a possible solution? Finally the paper proposes that the IRWA can be beneficial for victims if it is strengthened to include victim-supportive measures and measures to prohibit the offender, as well as punish the offender in some unique ways.
Keywords: cyber victimization of women, cyber crime against women in India, cyber obscenity, therapeutic jurisprudence, trolling
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