The Union Cabinet approved the introduction of Amendments to the “Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986” in Parliament.
Key amendments proposed are as follows:
i. Broaden the scope of the law to cover the audio-visual media and material in electronic form.
ii. Penalties to be enhanced to a maximum of three years of imprisonment and fine of between Rs.50,000 to Rs.1,00,000 for first conviction, and imprisonment of not less than two years, but which may extend to seven years, and a fine between Rs.1,00,000 to Rs.5,00,000 for second conviction.
(iii) Police officers not below the rank of Inspectors authorized to carry out search and seizure, in addition to State and Central Government officers authorized by the State or Central Government.
These amendments seek to ensure that more effective protection is provided against indecent representation of women by covering newer forms of communication like internet, multimedia messaging etc., 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 Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 (IRWA) focuses on indecent representation of women and brings under its ambit references that are derogatory to the dignity of women. The IRWA, 1986 was enacted with the specific objective of prohibiting the indecent representation of women through advertisement, publication, writing, and painting or in any other manner. The existing Act, in its present form, covers the print media. However, over the years, technological revolution has resulted in the development of newer forms of communication such as internet and satellite based communication, multi-media messaging, cable television etc. It has, therefore, become imperative to widen the scope of the law so as to cover such forms of media, on one hand, and to strengthen the existing safeguards to prevent indecent representation of women through any such form.
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 was enacted with the objective of prohibiting indecent representation of women in any advertisement or publication. However, since the existing legislation lacks the focus that is necessary to protect women from exploitation, particularly in the face of the increasing use of advanced technology and communication devices in our everyday life, it was felt that the scope of the Act may need to be amended. Extensive consultations have been held with stakeholders including lawyers and civil society organizations on the draft Bill, before its finalization.