Cyberspace & Sexual Violence Laws
India does not have adequate legal provisions that clearly deal with sexual violence specifically in the cyberspace. With the immense growth of technology and the use of internet in India, the need for such laws is exceedingly felt. Several cases rely on other relevant corresponding laws to tackle cases of sexual violence in the cyberspace. Some aspects of sexual violence in the cyberspace are covered under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the Information Technology Act, 2000. (IT Act)
Is distributing pictures of a woman online without her consent illegal?
Yes. Distributing of images of a woman engaged in a private act where she has a general expectation of not being observed, taken without consent is considered voyeurism under Section 354C of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Such distribution could be offline or online. Online distribution contributes to sexual violence in the cyberspace. Some examples of private acts are: a woman using the toilet, a woman who is engaged in a sexual act etc. It is not a crime if the woman gave her consent for these private pictures to be shared online. However, it is a crime if the woman gave consent for the pictures to be taken but did not give consent for these private pictures to be shared online. The punishment for this offence can range from 3 to 7 years and a fine.
What does the IT Act say about voyeurism?
Under the IT Act, voyeurism is a crime, irrespective of gender. Section 66E of this Act provides for punishment in cases of violation of privacy. It states that any act by a person who, knowingly or unknowingly, without consent, takes a photograph of the private areas of a person, or sends such a photograph to someone else or publishes such a photograph, under circumstances which violate the person’s privacy, will be considered a crime.
‘Circumstances violating privacy’ under the IT Act constitute those circumstances in which a person is disrobing without being captured or has a reasonable expectation that their private areas will not be seen by the public.
Such acts can be punished with imprisonment which may extend upto 3 years and the person may be liable to pay a fine of up to two lakhs.
Section 67A of the IT Act states that if material which is published online is sexually explicit, the person can be imprisoned for 5 years and be liable to pay a fine of upto ten lakhs.
What online behaviour is considered sexual harassment under the IPC?
Sending obscene material (photos, pictures, films, messages) to a woman through social media is an act of sexual harassment under the IPC. Showing or sending a woman pornographic or sexually explicit material without her consent is a form of sexual harassment under Section 354A of the IPC. The perpetrator of such a crime can be punished with 3 years of imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
What are the provisions regarding online stalking in Indian law?
The IT Act, as amended in 2008, does not explicitly provide any provisions against online stalking.
In most cases of online stalking, Section 72 (‘penalty for breach of confidentiality or privacy’) of the IT Act is employed. If a person without the other person’s consent discloses information about them online in any form of media, he is liable to be punished for a period of up to 2 years, or with a fine of one lakh rupees, or both.
Is sending obscene or sexually explicit material online punishable in India?
Yes. Sending obscene or sexually explicit material is punishable under the IT Act. For publishing and sharing obscene material, the punishment is 3 years imprisonment and a fine of rupees five lakhs.
If the perpetrator has committed the offence more than once, the punishment is a seven year imprisonment and a fine of rupees ten lakhs.
The provisions related to breach of privacy and stalking have been used by victims of revenge porn in India. Currently, there is no separate statute which deals with revenge porn. There are no legal remedies or provisions to aid the victim in removing images published online as revenge porn. (Gupta, 2015)
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