Offences against Women can be defined as crimes committed against women of any age, caste, or creed. Murders, abuse, molestation, rape, and infanticide are among the most common types of crimes. Every year, the number of crimes committed against women in India increases. In India, there are a variety of crimes committed against women.
The majority of these crimes result in long-term trauma or death. One example of a crime committed against Indian women is dowry deaths. The bride’s family is supposed to reward the groom with a significant sum of money, according to Indian tradition; this is the concept of dowry. In rural areas, the bride, who is usually from a poor family, is unable to meet the groom’s high dowry demand.
They fail to meet and pay the amount requested by the groom. In such cases, the bride is frequently subjected to the groom’s verbal and physical abuse. Because her family is unable to pay the dowry, the woman is beaten, abused, and molested on a regular basis. Dowry deaths are most common in India’s rural areas, and they are a responsible part of the crimes against women.
Rapes and other non-consensual sexual activities make up a significant portion of the violence against Indian women. According to statistics, women in the Indian subcontinent are the most vulnerable to rape; it is the most dangerous country in terms of rape cases. Rape is when a man engages in sexual activity with a woman without her consent.
It is true that women are becoming more aware and open about rape; they are sharing their own personal stories of sexual assault, for example. However, India’s population continues to grow. The perpetrators are frequently left unpunished. The recent Nirbhaya case is a very big example of rape in India that changed the law.
Another common form of violence against women is marital rape. Marital rape is when a married couple engages in nonconsensual sexual activity. Husbands frequently impose and coerce their wives without their consent. As a result, the female body is subjected to a great deal of abuse and physical molestation. Other forms of violence against Indian women include human trafficking and forced prostitution. Child marriage, domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and abduction are some of the other forms of violence perpetrated against Indian women.
Offences against women under the Indian Penal Code, 1860
Dowry death (Section 304B)
Bride burning and dowry deaths are both sinful practices that are still practiced in Indian society. It is a symptom of a specific social ailment, and it is one of our society’s unfortunate developments. Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with dowry deaths, was added to address this serious matter. Section 304B clause (1) defines dowry death, while clause (2) specifies the penalty, which is a minimum of seven years and a maximum of life imprisonment.
- The woman’s death must be caused by burns or bodily injury, or by something other than normal circumstances.
- This type of death must happen within the first seven years of marriage.
- The woman had to have been treated badly by her husband or a relative of her husband.
- This type of cruelty must be related to dowry demands.
- Such cruelty must be exposed as soon as possible before her death.
- Kans Raj v. State of Punjab
In all cases, the in-laws or other relatives cannot be held responsible for the dowry demand due to the fault of the husband. When such a charge is levelled, the overt acts attributed to people other than the husband must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Such relationships cannot be held liable for the dowry death offence based on mere speculations and implications.
However, a trend has emerged of involving all relatives of the deceased wives’ in-laws in dowry death cases, which, if not discouraged, is likely to affect the prosecution’s case even against the real culprits. In their zeal to convict as many people as possible, the parents of the deceased have been caught attempting to enlist the help of other relatives, thereby weakening the prosecution’s case even against the real defendant, as appears to have happened in this case.
- Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar
In recent years, the number of matrimonial disputes has skyrocketed. In this country, the institution of marriage is held in high regard. The purpose of Section 498-A of the IPC was to combat the threat of harassment to a woman by her husband and his relatives. Because section 498-A IPC is a cognizable and non-bailable offence, it has earned a dubious reputation as one of the provisions that disgruntled wives use as a weapon rather than a shield.
Getting the husband and his relatives arrested under these provisions is the simplest way to harass them. In a number of cases, the husband’s bedridden grandfathers and grandmothers, as well as their sisters who have been living abroad for decades, have been arrested.
Acid Attack (Section 326A and Section 326B)
Section 326A of the Indian Penal Code punishes anyone who intentionally causes grievous bodily harm by using acid. The following essentials are required for the offence under this section:
- The offender’s act should have resulted in permanent or partial damage or deformity to any part of the body
- The offender’s act should have resulted in injury such as burns, maims, disfigures, or disables any part of the body; or 3. The offender’s act should have resulted in injury such as burns, maims, disfigures, or disables any part of the body
- The victim has suffered a great deal as a result of the act.
- Any of the aforementioned injuries must have resulted from an act of throwing or administering acid to the victim.
- The offender must also be aware that committing the aforementioned act will invariably result in injury to the victim, and the offender must intend to cause such injury.
Punishment – not less than 10 years and liability to pay fine.
The act of throwing or attempting to throw acid on another person with the intent to injure them is punishable under Section 326B. The following essentials are required for the offence under this section:
- The accused should have thrown or attempted to throw acid on another person or attempted to administer acid to that person.
- The accused person intends to commit the above-mentioned act with the intent to cause permanent or partial damage, deformity, burns, maiming, disfigurement, disability, or grievous harm.
Punishment – a term not less than 5 years which may extend to 7 years and shall also be liable to fine.
In the case of Laxmi v Union of India, the Supreme Court issued an order prohibiting the sale of acid in stores. For the first time, an acid attack victim was compensated in this case. Preventing Acid Attacks and Rehabilitating Victims of Acid Attacks The bill was passed in 2017 to provide for the prevention of acid attacks through the regulation of the sale, supply, and use of acid or other measures, as well as the rehabilitation of women who have been victims of acid attacks and other matters related to it. According to this bill, no one may sell or deliver acid to another person without keeping a record of his or her identity, the quantity of acid, and the intended use of the acid.
The accused in Morepally Venkatasree Nagesh v State of Andhra Pradesh was suspicious of his wife’s character and poured mercuric chloride into her vagina, after which she died of renal failure. Sections 302 and 307 of the Indian Penal Code were used to charge and convict the defendant.
One of the most well-known acid attack cases is State of Karnataka by Jalahalli Police Station v Joseph Rodrigues. For refusing his job offer, the accused threw acid on a girl named Hasina. Her face changed color and appearance as a result of the acid attack, and she became blind. The defendant was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code.
Rape (Section 375 and Section 376)
Rape is defined by Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which states that rape is committed when a man participates in sexual activity with a woman:
- Against her will
- Without her express consent, that is, by coercion or threats of killing or injuring her or someone she cares about
- With consent but by convincing her that the man has been lawfully married to her
- By obtaining her consent while she was mentally ill, intoxicated, or under the influence of any other substance that might impair her decision-making ability
- If she is under the age of 16, with or without her consent.
- When woman is unable to communicate her consent
Mukesh & Anr. v. State of NCT of Delhi & Ors. In this case a female student, who was travelling with a friend, was brutally gangraped by 6 men inside of a moving bus. The woman and her friend after being injured were thrown out of the bus where a PCR found them and took them to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The woman later succumbed to her injuries after giving her statement against her perpetrators. This case is also known as the famous Nirbhaya case that brought on various changes in the Indian Law relating to rape by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, which changed the definition of rape and its related offences.
Exception – marital rape is the only exception to rape under section 375.
Punishment – rigorous punishment of not less than 10 years but can be extended to imprisonment for life and fine; death penalty is also given in rarest of the rare case, such as the Nirbhaya judgement.
Section 376A – It states that anyone who commits an offence punishable under section 376 that results in the death of a woman or puts her in a persistent vegetative state shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term of not less than 20 years, but which may extend to life imprisonment or death.
Section 376B – Anyone who has sexual intercourse with his own wife while they are living separately, whether under a decree of separation or not, without her consent is punishable by imprisonment of any kind for a term of not less than two years but not more than seven years, as well as a fine.
Section 376D – It specifies the punishment for gang rape, stating that if a woman is raped by a group of people, they will be sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison, with the possibility of life imprisonment, as well as a fine.
Section 376E – Whoever has been previously convicted of an offence punishable under Section 376, Section 376-A, or Section 376-D and is subsequently convicted of an offence punishable under any of the said sections shall be punished with life imprisonment or death.
Outraging the modesty of women (Section 354)
The offence of molestation, defined as assault on a woman with the intent to offend her modesty, is dealt with under Section 354, IPC. This section is designed to protect women from indecent or filthy behaviour by others that is offensive to their modesty. This is a crime against not only the individual, but also society and public morality.
As a result, if a man uses criminal force against a woman with the intent to offend her modesty, he will be sentenced to a minimum of one year in prison and a maximum of five years in prison, as well as a fine. For example: touching a woman inappropriately or suggesting sexual favors.
The essentials of Section 354, IPC are as follows:
- The person who has been assaulted must be a female.
- She must have been subjected to criminal force by the accused.
- There must be an intention to offend a woman’s modesty.
Raju Pandurang Mahale v. State of Maharashtra In this case the facts were as – On a false pretense, the accused brought the victim to the house of a co-accused. They locked her up in the house and forced her to drink alcoholic beverages. The victim was then stripped naked and photographed in her underwear. According to the Supreme Court the accused were found guilty under Section 354, IPC, because their actions were an affront to the normal sense of feminine decency.
Disrobing a Woman (Section 354B)
Assaulting or using criminal force on a woman or aiding or abetting any such act with the intent to disrobe or compel her to be naked, is punishable by a sentence of not less than three years, but not more than seven years, plus a fine under this section. Only a man can be punished under this section because it is a gender-specific offence. This section was added after the Nirbhaya judgement, through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.
The following are the essentials of this section:
- The accused must be a man, according to the ingredients.
- There must be evidence of criminal force, assault, or aiding and abetting such behaviour.
- There must be a desire to disrobe or compel a woman to be naked.
Voyeurism (Section 354C)
After the Nirbhaya Rape Case in 2012, this offence was developed. The term voyeurism refers to appeasement derived from secretly observing others’ genital or sexual acts. This provision is split into two sections:
- When a person watches or captures an image of a woman performing a private act, that is, punishable by a minimum sentence of one year in prison, with a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine.
- When that person disseminates or spreads that image, that is, punishable by a minimum of three years in prison and a maximum of seven years in prison, as well as a fine.
The following are the essentials of this section:
- The accused must be a man
- He must capture an image
- The woman whose image is captured should be immersed in some private act
- The circumstances must be such that she does not expect to be noticed by the perpetrator
- The accused disseminates those images.
R. v. Jarvis – Ryan Jarvis (Jarvis) was a high school teacher at Beal Secondary School (School) in London, Ontario, for the Thames Valley District School Board (School Board). He used to teach students aged 14 to 18 years old, and he was never accused of anything related to his teaching or his behaviour. Jarvis was secretly filming female students using a pen with a camera built in, and the videos were made without their knowledge. He was not given permission to do so by the school or the school board.
When a coworker learned of this, he informed the school’s principal, who then informed the police authorities. It was discovered that there were 17 active videos of 30 different individuals, 27 of whom were female students at the school. The audio and video footage focused on the chest areas of females. Jarvis was charged with voyeurism in violation of section 162(1)(c) of the Criminal Code of Canada.
Jarvis’ behaviour was found to be immoral and in violation of his professional obligations, according to the trial judge. Because the recording for a sexual purpose of the test was not successful, Jarvis was found not guilty of the crime and acquitted. However, the Supreme Court of Canada found him guilty because the recording violated the school board’s policy as well as the trust relationship between a teacher and a student.
The videos were directed at specific female students, with a focus on their breasts in many cases. Students would never expect a teacher to record their school in such a manner. They seemed to have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Stalking (Section 345D)
The term “stalking” is defined in Section 354D of the IPC as “the act of following or attempting to contact a woman despite her disinterest.” There are two offences in this section:
- When a man pursues, contacts, or attempts to contact a woman despite her obvious lack of interest, that is, punishable by imprisonment for a period of up to three years, plus a fine.
- When a man monitors a woman’s use of the internet, email, or any other form of electronic communication, that is, punishable by imprisonment up to five years in prison plus a fine
The essentials are:
- The accused should be a male and the victim should be female
- The accused must follow the victim or attempt to contact the victim
- The accused monitors the victim by using internet, e-mail, or any other electronic device
- Despite the woman’s interest.
What does stalking exclude?
There is a proviso attached to this section that creates 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.
The Supreme Court, in the case of Vishaka v State of Rajasthan, which was read with an important Supreme Court judgement in the case of Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K. Chopra, stated that every act of sexual harassment resulted in a violation of the fundamental right of women workers enumerated in articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Inspector General of Police v. S. Samuthiram, a Supreme Court decision from 2012, established eight guidelines to prevent eve teasing. The Court discussed the importance of hearing victim and bystander complaints about eve teasing in public places like public transportation, educational institutions, and movie theatres.
In the Santosh Kumar Singh v. State through CBI (Priya Mattoo Case), a young law student was stalked by Mr Santosh Singh, son of a former IPS officer, who raped and murdered her in her home in Vasant Kunj, Delhi. A number of complaints have been filed against the perpetrator at the Vasant Kunj and RK Puram police stations.
On January 23, 1996, Mattoo was alone at home when she was raped and murdered by Santosh. After that, in 1996, the case was transferred to CBI. The high court sentenced him to death, but the Supreme Court later commuted his sentence to life imprisonment in December 2010.
Sexual Harassment (Section 354A)
This new provision was added through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 that defines that a person shall be guilty of an offence under this section if:
- If he makes physical contact with the woman and initiates an unwanted and explicit sexual act
- Requests or demands for sexual favors
- Shows pornography against a woman’s will
- Make sexually suggestive remarks.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act was passed in 2013 to protect women at work from sexual harassment, as well as to prevent and resolve complaints about sexual harassment or any incident related to it.
Punishment: in Section 354A (1) I to (iii) are rigorous imprisonment for a term of up to three years, fines, or both, and in the case of subclause (iv), it is imprisonment for a term of up to one year, fines, or both.
Cruelty by Husband or his relatives (Section 498A)
This section deals with the cruelty a woman is subjected by her husband and his relatives. The goal of enacting this provision was to punish husbands and their relatives who torture, ill-treat, or harass a woman in order to force her or anyone else connected to her to comply with any unlawful demands. For the purpose of matrimonial relief, this section has given a new dimension to the concept of cruelty, which is the essence of this section. This section does not apply to all forms of cruelty. It has been stated in the section that what kind of cruelty is covered by this law.
- The victim must be a widowed or married woman.
- Her husband or one of his relatives has been cruel to her.
- Harassment of a woman with the intent of coercing her into paying a dowry demand or willful conduct by the husband or his relatives of a nature that is likely to lead the lady to commit suicide or cause grave injury to her life, limb, or health, with such injury inflicted either physically or mentally.
Punishment: imprisonment up to 3 years and fine
In the case of Onkar Nath Mishra v. State (NCT of Delhi), the Supreme Court held that Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code was enacted with the stated goal of combating the threat of dowry deaths and harassment of a woman by her husband or his relatives. However, the provision should not be used as a means of achieving oblique goals.
In another case of Arun Vyas v. Anita Vyas the Supreme Court stated that the essence of the Section 498-A offence is cruelty. It is a continuous offence, and each time the woman is subjected to cruelty, she gains a new starting point of limitation.
Insulting the modesty of Women (Section 509)
Section 509 brings an act done with the intent to insult a woman’s modesty that may or may not involve physical force under the purview of this provision. This section aims to prevent any kind of aggression against a woman’s modesty, whether through words, gestures, or actions, or by intruding on her privacy. The ‘Eve Teasing Section’ is another name for this section.
Anyone who violates Section 509 is subject to a sentence of simple imprisonment for a period up to three years, as well as a fine.
The following is the essentials of this section:
- an intention to insult a woman’s modesty; the insult must be caused either by intruding upon a woman’s privacy; or
- by making any gesture or sound, uttering any word, or displaying any object.
Recent amendments in law related to women
The Indian government has enacted many women specific legislations in recent times that aim on reducing crimes against women and helping them gain justice if a crime is committed. These offences are:
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION and REDRESSAL) Act, 2013 (POSH Act)
- Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017
- Decriminalising of Adultery – The Supreme Court after its judgement decriminalised adultery after Joseph Shine stated in his arguments that punishing men for adultery treated women like objects.
- Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018 (Triple Talaq Bill)
- Sabrimala Temple issue: through its judgement, the Supreme Court allowed women’s entry in a temple that had previously been not allowed changing the sphere of religion in India.
- The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, also known as the Women’s Reservation Bill, is a pending bill in India that proposes to amend the Indian Constitution to allocate 33% of all seats in the Lower House Lok Sabha and all state legislative assemblies to women. The seats to be reserved in rotation will be determined by a random drawing of lots, with each seat being reserved only once every three general elections. The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house, on March 9, 2010.
Despite the numerous laws designed to protect and safeguard women’s rights and interests, the rate of crime against women and victimization continues to rise. The saying goes that it takes two to tango. It implies that laws alone are incapable of regulating and controlling the rise in crimes against women in our society.
The suppression of evil eyes on women, as well as the instillation of social ethics, morals, and values, as well as respect and honour in every human being toward women, is a supplement factor that can help reduce the number of crimes against women. India still has a long way to go.
- Kans Raj v. State of Punjab AIR 2000 SC 2324 ↑
- Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar 2014 (8) SCC 273 ↑
- Laxmi v Union of India 2014 (4) SCC 427 ↑
- Morepally Venkatasree Nagesh v State of Andhra Pradesh 2002 Cri Lj 3625 (AP) ↑
- State of Karnataka by Jalahalli Police Station v Joseph Rodrigues Criminal Appeal 1066/2004 ↑
- Mukesh & Anr. V. State of NCT of Delhi & Ors. (2017) 6 SCC 1 ↑
- Raju Pandurang Mahale v. State of Maharashtra 2004(2) SCR 287 ↑
- Vishaka v State of Rajasthan (1997) 6 SCC 241 ↑
- Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K. Chopra 1997 2 AD (Delhi) 12 ↑
- Inspector General of Police v. S. Samuthiram Civil Appeal no. 8513 of 2012 decided on 30th November 2012 ↑
- Santosh Kumar Singh v. State through CBI Criminal Appeal no. 87 of 2007 decided on 6th October 2010 ↑
- The new Act was made after the judgement in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, which has been explained before. ↑
- Onkar Nath Mishra v. State (NCT of Delhi) (2008) 2 SCC 561 ↑
- Arun Vyas v. Anita Vyas (1999) 4 SCC 690 ↑
- Joseph Shine v. Union of India 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676 ↑
- Dr S. Ganapathy v. State of Kerela 2018 SCC OnLine Ker 5802 ↑