Online Abuse

What laws in India protect women and children against online abuse?

I copied this from a public interest letter prepared by Adv Anupama Sripathi, Athira R Menon, Priyanka Navle and Hrishikesh Bhaskaran. I thank them for this compilation.

What is online violence/online abuse?

There are several kinds of harassment and abuse that people face on the internet. Online violence and abuse can take many forms. The following are some forms of online violence:

  • Threats of violence​: Direct and indirect threats of physical or sexual violence.

  • Violations of privacy: Sharing of sexual and private images without consent, and ‘doxxing’ (revealing personal or identifying details without consent, with the aim to cause distress).

  • Discrimination: Targeted content that is sexist, racist, homophobic or related to an individual’s identity that aims to belittle, humiliate or undermine them.

  • Online harassment: Sustained or repeated communications involving one or more people working together to target an individual, using abusive comments or images online, over a short or coordinated period of time, with the aim of humiliating or otherwise distressing them

It is important to remember that online settings where such violence can occur include but are not limited to social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. They also include emails, messaging apps like WhatsApp and Viber; blog sites such as WordPress and Blogger, and even comments sections of different websites like news sites and YouTube. Online violence and abuse is experienced by Internet users of all genders. However, women’s experiences online often mirror the discrimination, sexism and violence that women experience offline.

The following provisions under Indian law can help protect you against any online abuse that you may be experiencing.

Information Technology Act

This law protects against the violation of a person’s privacy, transmitting obscene material, sharing of sexually explicit material and creation and publication of sexually explicit material involving children.

  • Section 66E penalizes the violation of a person’s privacy by intentionally capturing and publishing images of a private area of any person without his or her consent.

  • Section 67 punishes electronic publication or transmission of obscene material.

  • Section 67A deals particularly with the electronic publication or transmission of material that contains sexually explicit acts.

  • Section 67B relates to material depicting children in sexually explicit acts and includes under its purview not only those who create and publish but also whoever downloads digital images depicting children engaged in a sexually explicit act or conduct.

  • Section 66C Punishment for identity theft. -Whoever, fraudulently or dishonestly make use of the electronic signature, password or any other unique identification feature of any other person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to rupees one lakh.

  • Section 66D provides for ​Punishment for cheating by personation by using a computer resource. -Whoever, by means of any communication device or computer resource cheats by personating, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.

Indian Penal Code

Various provisions of the Indian Penal Code penalise sexually coloured remarks, stalking, and insulting the modesty and privacy of a woman.

  • Section 354A punishes sexual harassment, including making sexually coloured remarks.

  • Section 354C punishes voyeurism that is capturing or disseminating images of a woman engaged in a private act in circumstances where she expects privacy

  • Section 354D punishes stalking, especially online stalking.

  • Section 503 prohibits criminal intimidation, including issuing physical threats to a person.

  • Section 506 punishes criminal intimidation by ‘imputing unchastity’ to a woman.

  • Section 509 punishes words, gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman or to intrude upon her privacy.

  • Section 153A punishes those ​Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony

  • Section 290 Punishment for public nuisance in cases not otherwise pro​vided for.—Whoever commits a public nuisance in any case not otherwise punishable by this Code, shall be punished with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees

  • Section 354B ​Any man who assaults or uses criminal force to any woman or abets such act with the intention of disrobing or compelling her to be naked, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

  • Section 416 punishes cheating by impersonation

  • Section 499 punishes defamation.—Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person.

  • Section 507 punishes criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication.

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act

This Act prohibits the publication of any printed material containing indecent representation of women.

  • Section 4 prohibits the publication of any printed material containing indecent representation of women.

  • Section 6: ​Penalty.—Any person who contravenes the provisions of section 3 or section 4 shall be punishable on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, and with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment for a term of not less than six months but which may extend to five years and also with a fine not less than ten thousand rupees but which may extend to one lakh rupees.

THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN AT WORKPLACE (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION AND REDRESSAL) ACT, 2013 - (POSH Act)

  • This is an Act to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

  • As per the Section 2(n) of the Act “sexual harassment” includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication) namely:— (i) physical contact and advances; or (ii) a demand or request for sexual favours; or (iii) making sexually coloured remarks; or (iv) showing pornography; or (v) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature;

THE SCHEDULED CASTES AND THE SCHEDULED TRIBES (PREVENTION OF ATROCITIES) ACT, 1989

Section 3. (1) Whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe,- (x) intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view;

  • (xii) being in a position to dominate the will of a woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe and uses that position to exploit her sexually to which she would not have otherwise agreed; shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine.

  • (v) commits any offence under the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) punishable with imprisonment for a term of ten years or more against a person or property on the ground that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or such property belongs to such member, shall be punishable with imprisonment for life and with fine;

Article 21 in The Constitution Of India 1949

Protection of life and personal liberty - No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act

Amongst other things, provisions in the Act prevent sexual harassment of a child as well as the use of children for pornographic purposes.

  • Section 11 defines and makes sexual harassment a punishable offence

  • Section 12 penalizes sexual harassment of a child.

  • Section 13 makes the use of children for pornographic purposes a punishable offence

  • Section 14 penalise anyone who uses a child for pornographic purposes