Protection of Privacy and Dignity of Women Bill to be out soon

The State government will introduce a Bill that seeks to impose the death penalty on culprits causing the death of a woman through rape, harassment or other such offences listed in the Indian Penal Code. The draft Kerala Protection of Privacy and Dignity of Women Bill, 2013, will be published soon.

The provision assumes significance in the context of the Delhi gang-rape case, though the State government had initiated steps much earlier to bring in the law in the light of a spate of offences in cyberspace and the physical world, including the widespread use of spy cameras.

The Bill seeks to enlarge the scope of offences against women of any age group by clearly defining the term harassment. Where a woman commits suicide and if it is proved that soon before her death, she was subjected to harassment or that any offences have been committed against her under sections 294 (obscene act in public places); 354 (intention to outrage the modesty of a woman); 375 (rape); or 509 ( gestures, words and so on intended to hurt the dignity of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code, such death shall be deemed to be death caused by harassment unless it is proved otherwise, says Section 5 of the proposed Bill.

Section 3 prohibits harassment of women in any place, including cyberspace. The punishment for harassment will be imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years, but may extend to imprisonment for life and with fine.

Section 4(b) says punishment for harassment leading to death includes life imprisonment with fine, besides the death penalty, while Section 14 ensures privacy during trial by making it mandatory to hold it in-camera.

Harassment

The Bill defines harassment of women as any act by a person or indecent conduct that causes or is likely to cause hurt to her dignity, intimidation, fear, shame or embarrassment. Such acts include fondling or touching a woman under the guise of helping her; showing gestures or actions either by words or in writing in any form or through any electronic device soliciting sexual favour; showing her pornographic material or obscene literature; making comments about her physical appearance with a view to insulting her; misusing position to sexually exploit her; intruding into her privacy by SMS, phone call, videotaping, voice recording, photographing, collection or circulation of images or voice clips through the Internet, mobile phone or any other instrument or morphing; blackmailing; and committing any kind of sexual exploitation.

“Misusing position” has been further defined as meaning to be in a position to dominate the will of a woman, using that position to exploit her sexually to which she will not have otherwise consented.

The Bill makes possession of materials affecting the privacy and dignity of a woman an offence. Whoever is found in possession of such material shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to three years or with fine which may extend to Rs. 25,000 or both. It has a provision that prohibits publication of identifying details of any woman against whom an offence under the Act has been committed.

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