Since the enactment of the Indecent Representation of Women Act (IRW), 1986, the technological revolution has resulted in the development of new forms of communication, such as internet, multi-media messaging, cable television, over-the-top (OTT) services and applications e.g. Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Chat On, Snapchat, Instagram etc. Keeping in mind these technological advancements, it has been decided to widen the scope of the law.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development has proposed to ban obscene depiction of women on the Internet and on SMS/MMS by amending the Indecent Representation of Women Act (IRW), 1986. It has also been proposed to set up a central authority under the National Commission of Women, which will include representatives from Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Press Council of India, Advertising Standards Council of India, and a member with experience of working on women’s issues.
- The IRW Act prohibits “indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner”.
- It provides for imprisonment of up to 2 years an offence committed for the first time and imprisonment of six months to five years for a second time convict.
- Sections 67 and 67A of the IT Act lay down a punishment of three to five years for circulating obscene material and five to seven years for circulating sexually explicit material.
- Bringing the Act in tune with the Information Technology Act, 2000, would expand the Section 4 of the IRW Act. This would prohibit publication or sending books, posts and pamphlets with such indecent representation of women.
- It would include ‘any material’ that is published or is intended to be distributed. This would bring into the purview of the legislation, the social media platforms and digital means communication, for example, Facebook, Instagram, Viber, Snapchat, Skype, Whatsapp etc.
- It has been proposed by the ministry to expand the meaning of the word ‘advertisement’ to include its various ‘digital and electronic forms or SMS, MMS’.
- The Ministry has suggested that stricter punishments be awarded for such crimes on par with those recommended under the IT Act, 2008.
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