7-yr jail for indecent email, MMS

Govt okays changes to law on portrayal of women

7-yr jail for indecent email, MMS

Circulation of MMS, audio-visual material and emails that represent women in indecent manner can land the senders in serious trouble as the Centre has decided to amend relevant laws to stipulate a jail term of two to seven years, besides hefty fine.

A proposal, cleared by the Union cabinet on Thursday, is understood to have defined that the act of sending/forwarding would be the same as “publishing” in printed form, which is by existing laws. Printing and publishing of material that depicts women in indecent form attracts punitive action under existing laws.

The Cabinet gave its nod to amend Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA), 1986, and an official release said that "the amendments broaden the scope of the law to cover the audio-visual media and material in electronic form".

The amendment will cover dissemination of material in electric and digital format will also include “preparing and making” content available for the print and the electronic media. As regards the definition of what constitutes indecent representation of women, it will include “depiction of women as a sexual object, which appeals to the prurient interest”.

The Cabinet decided to broaden the scope of the law to prohibit indecent representation of women in any advertisement or publication as the act in its present form is applicable only to the print media.

Posting of obscene MMS or video clips on various websites including the social networking sites and chain email has become a new tool in the hands of miscreants to threat women these days. But even though MMS and video clips are increasingly being used to harass women, there is little legal option available for the law enforcing agencies as per the existing act. However, it is understood that SMSes will not figure in the list of the electronic medium that has been identified

At present, the rules define `indecent portrayal’ as depiction of the figure, form, body or any part of a woman which denigrates women or is likely to injure public morality. Under the new law, police officers, inspectors and ranks above them will be empowered to conduct search and seizure. This is unlike the current law where only officers authorised by the state can conduct search and seizure.

The proposed amendment, which will have to be cleared by Parliament, enhances the fine amount to be slapped on guilty persons. The fine would be graded. For the first conviction, the fine would be raised from a minimum of Rs 2,000 to Rs 50,000 going upto Rs 1 lakh depending on the severity of the crime.

Similarly, for repeat offenders, the fine would be between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh and jail term may extend to seven years.

The government is of the view that more effective protection is required against indecent representation of women by covering newer forms of communication like Internet, multimedia messaging, beyond the print and audio-visual media. "This would aid in addressing the problem of increased objectification of women thereby ensuring dignity of women," the release said.

Curbs coming

* Amendment to decency law makes circulation of pornographic MMS and
emails an offence
* For first conviction, minimum fine is Rs 50,000
* Repeat offenders to cough up between Rs 1-5 lakh, along with jail term of up to 7 years
* Police officers above inspector rank and officers authorised by the government can carry out search and seizure

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