The article elaborates and lists out the exhaustive provisions included in the Indian Penal Code which are meant for the protection of women and children. An attempt has been made to give a comprehensive picture of the existing provisions including those which were newly introduced by virtue of the 2013 amendment.
IPC or Indian Penal Code is the comprehensive criminal code in India that deals with all substantial aspects of criminal law. The code is intended as an India wide uniformly applicable statute containing elaborate information regarding various criminal offences, their penalties the procedure of investigation etc. IPC contains various sections dealing specifically with cases involving women and children.
The draft of the Indian Penal Code was first prepared by the first law Commission in colonial India chaired by Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1834 which was later submitted to the Governor-General Council of India.
The code is modelled after the simplified codification of the law of England, influences of Napoleonic code and the criminal code of Louisiana could also be seen. Until 31st of October 2019, the then state of Jammu and Kashmir followed the Ranbir’s Penal Code. Currently, the code’s territorial purview is applicable throughout the nation.
IPC is organised into 23 chapters containing 511 sections the code is a repository of information detailing the various offences and the explanations and exception relating to them.
I. IPC Sections relating to Women and Female children.
In the present world women and children, more specifically female children are subjected to a number of brutalities and are victims of range exploitations. The rate at which these crimes are committed is very alarming and invites immediate state attention. Indeed the sheer volume and proportion of these crimes will lead us to genuinely question what is wrong with our society ‘psyche’.
For instance, the sexual offences against women take place at a rate of one every minute. Recent series of event that took place at different parts of the country seem to underline the fact that only a major overhaul both in the current legal enforcement system and the moral value and normative aspects of our society is indeed the need of the hour.
A general pattern emerging throughout these crimes is that the apart from the perpetrators the single most recurring primary culprit is the sloppy and sluggish enforcement mechanism and the painfully long time period that take place for a response. Making it easy for the offenders to either evade the supposedly ‘long hand of the law’ altogether or to receive only very minor penalties.
This inevitably damages the deterrence effect that laws and reinforces belief that they are effectual only on paper notwithstanding however impressive they may seem .
Sexual Offences under IPC, 1860
The Indian Penal Code’s exclusive provisions with regards to women are mostly those which lists out the offences which are sexual in nature and those which are done with an intention to outrage modesty of woman.
In fact, the IPC sections relating to sexual offences was fodder for many controversies as they lacked gender-neutral definition and adhere to an outdated and ridiculous understanding of the potential victims by excluding other genders and sexual minorities.
In addition to these sections dealing absolutely with a crime against women other offences having women as victims are also listed out in various other sections such as theft, murder or robbery etc. The following sections are diametrically categorized to contain sexual offences against women
1.Rape -Section 375 and 376
The most brutal of the sexual offence of rape is defined in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, and the exact wording in it is thus given that;
“A man is said to have committed “rape”, who except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with women under circumstances falling under any of the following descriptions;
- Against her will
- Without her consent
- With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or anyone she is interested in fear of death or of hurt.
- With her consent when, when the man knows that he is not her husband and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.
- With her consent, when at the time of giving such consent by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome object she is unable to understand the consequence to that which she has given consent.
- With or without her consent when she is below 18 years of age.
Thus, the act of rape a heinous crime by nature is a forced sexual intrusion into the women’s body by which may or may not involve fraud or deceit. The concept of consent is the crucial aspect which determines the nature of the crime. Mere consent does not count for it has to be given by someone of sound mind and not under pressure or duress.
Rape is considered as one of the grossest offences which involves a grave violation of an individual’s right to dignity and privacy and that damages the victim’s sanctity. Apart from the substantial personal and psychological trauma that the victim will be forced to endure, there can be an added factor of social stigma.
Punishment for Rape (Section 376)
Section 376 which provides the relevant punishment for the offence of rape is subdivided into two;
Section 376 (1) provides with minimum imprisonment for 7 years which may extend up to life imprisonment and fine. Whereas Section 376 (2) gives forth a jail term of not less than 10 years but that may extend up to life or death or fine.
Again Section 376A states that if as a result of an act of rape the victim dies or reduced to live permanently in a vegetative state the punishment will amount to a jail term not less than 20 years and may extend up to imprisonment for life or death.
2. Outraging the Modesty of Women [Section 354]
Section 354 deals with cases in which an assault or brute force is exerted on a woman with an intention to outrage her modesty. The offence is deemed as a serious one with potential implications for the whole of society and the penalty for which is given under the same section as such; Whoever assaults or use criminal force to any women intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend up to five years, with fine.
The term modesty is not given a proper explanation, in the code, however, the court has resolved this issue by giving its own interpretations and accordingly modesty is an attribute associated with female human beings as a class and when an act results in a shock and is seen as an insult; to the female’s decency and dignity, it can be said to have outraged the modesty of the respected victim.
In order to be considered an offence under Section 354, the purported act must be
- Committed against a woman; the victim must be a woman
- It has to be proven that the accused has used criminal force against her.
- An intention to outrage the modesty must be there
3. Insulting the modesty of Women[Section 509]
This Section deals with cases in which an attempt has been made to violate the modesty but it did not involve elements of definite physical aggression. Section 509 is also nicknamed as the ‘eve-teasing section’ and it penalises a word ‘gesture or act or exhibits any object ’as a means to insult the modesty of a woman. This section is particularly concerned with verbal cues which may include uttering any words or making any sound so that such word or sound shall be heard by such women.
Additionally, any activity which results in an unsolicited intrusion into the woman’s privacy is also included. And such actions invite a jail term of 3 years along with fine. To be considered as an offence the purported act must meet the following criteria;
- An intention to insult the modesty of the woman must be there
- The said insult must be caused to the women by either intruding upon the privacy of the woman; or by making a gesture or sound uttering any word or exhibiting any object.
Apart from the above-said provisions an amendment in the year of 2013 was introduced, titled ‘The Criminal Law Amendment Act’ which added several new sections in the IPC as a response to the new forms of offences that are being committed against women and in keeping with the needs of the changing times.
4. Disrobing a Woman (Stripping) [Section 354 B]
This section deals with such activities which exhort by force to make a woman into being naked. The section gives the definition thus;
“Any man who assaults or uses criminal force to any women or abets such act with the intention of disrobing her or compelling her to be naked”
It is a Non-bail able cognizable offence which is not listed under the compoundable offences. In order to be deemed an offence the insulting act must be;
- Committed by a man
- There is proven evidence there had been an application of criminal force or assault
- There must be a proven intention to disrobe the women
If convicted the preparator will be liable for a 3to 7 years of jail term along with fine.
5. Sexual Harassment [354A]
The Section was incorporated into the code following a judgement by the SC on a case concerning sexual harassment at workplaces. Accordingly, a person can be considered guilty if he makes physical contact and advance in an unwelcome and explicit sexual act, or demands or request sexual favours or make sexually coloured remarks. The offence invites rigorous imprisonment for a term extending up to one year or fine or both.
6. Stalking [Section 354D]
Stalking is applied in common usage to mean the act of following or trying to contact a woman against her expressed disapproval. Apart from the act of physical stalking such as continuous monitoring and spying via modern means such as various social media application-mail or any other modes of electronic communication is also covered under the said section.
This distinction between the two above said is also made when it comes to the punishment in the case of the former; stalking physically invites a jail term which may extend up to three years with fine .while the latter is worthy of imprisonment up to five years with fine.
There is an exemption for this provided the man accused of such stalking has been entrusted to do so by the state for the purpose of preventing and detecting crimes.
7. Acid Attack [Section 326 A and 326 B]
Section 326A penalises voluntary act of causing grievous hurt using acid which leads to permanent damage or burns, disfigures or disables any part of the body of a person or caused any other type of grievous hurt is liable for imprisonment for a minimum of ten years which may extend to life and fine.
Whereas section 326B focus on the act of throwing acid with an intention to cause hurt the punishment is much lighter consisting of a minimum of five years imprisonment along with a fine.
- Offences related to marriage by the husband or his relatives[Section 498A]
These class of offences are included in a separate chapter of the penal code and they are intended to bring to the law the cruel treatment meted out to married women by their in-laws in order to realize any unlawful demands. As to what constitutes cruelty has been clearly defined subsequently. The punishment includes imprisonment extending up to three years with fine.
- Dowry Death[Section 304B]
In view of the increasing instances of dowry deaths and bride burning Section 3o4 D was introduced into the IPC to deal exclusively with such cases. Accordingly, the offence attracts &n years of imprisonment which may extend for life.
II. IPC Provisions relating to Children
IPC sections which deal primarily with children recognise their special status and treats them accordingly. These special concerns are displayed throughout in cases where a child is a victim and the offender.
1.Sections dealing with children as offenders.
Regarding Child offenders [Section 82 and 83]
According to section 82 of the IPC, nothing is an offence if it is proven to be committed by a minor child under the age of seven years. Similarly, Section 83 states that nothing can be considered an offence which is done by a child above seven and below twelve, who has not attained sufficient understanding or maturity to judge the nature of the consequences of his conduct.
2. Sections Concerning Child Protection.
Regarding Acts for the benefit of a minor by lawful guardian [Section 89]
Section 89 states that nothing which is done in good faith for the benefit of a person under twelve years of age, or of unsound mind or by consent either expressed or implied, of the guardian or other person having lawful charge of that person is an offence by reason of any harm it may cause, or be intended by the doer to cause or be known by the doer to likely cause to that person.
Abandonment of child [Section 317]
Whoever being the father or mother of the child or having the care of the child shall expose or leave such child in any with the intention of wholly abandoning him/her shall be punished with imprisonment for either description for a term which may extend up to seven years in jail.
Kidnapping [Section 361 &363& 369]
Section 361 penalises an act by which a minor.ie child under 16 years if male and under 18 years if a female is taken out of custody or is enticed to go outside of the child’s lawful guardian without the express consent of the guardian is committing an act of kidnapping.
Section 363 provides the punishment of this offence whoever convicted of kidnapping invites a jail term which may extend up to seven years in addition to a fine. Section 363A penalises kidnapping or maiming a child for the purposes of begging.
Section 369 enunciates that whoever kidnaps or abduct a child under the age of 10 years with an intention to misappropriate any movable property from the person of such child shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend up to seven years in addition to a fine.
Sexual Exploitation [Section 366A]
According to 366A whoever by any means whatsoever induces any minor girl under the age of 18n years to go from any place or to do any act with intent that such girl may be or knowing that it is likely that she will be forced or seduced to illicit intercourse with another person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall be liable to fine.
Trafficking [Section 373&372]
Section 372 of IPC asserts that whoever sells or let to hire or disposes of any person under the age of 18 years with an intent that such girl shall at any age be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution or illicit intercourse with any person or for any unlawful or immoral purpose or knowing it to be likely that such person will at any age employed or used for any such purpose shall be punished for either description for a term which may extend up to ten years of imprisonment with fine.
Thereafter, Section 373 protects the girl child from trafficking, buys, hires obtains possession of any person under the age of 18 years with intent that such person shall at any age be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution or illicit intercourse with any person or for any unlawful or immoral purpose of knowing it to be likely that such person at any age be employed or used for such purpose shall be punished for either description with ten years of imprisonment and fine.
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Bare Act)
- Article titled ‘Offences Against Women’ by Diva Rai