Context: Based on the observations made by Parliamentary Standing Committee and recommendation made by the National Commission for Women on the basis of consultation with civil society groups and likeminded individuals, WCD has proposed amendments in IRWA keeping in mind the recent technological advancement in the field of communications such as social media platforms, over the top services etc.
Provisions in the Constitution regarding Women:
Preamble: The Preamble to the Constitution of India assures justice, social, economic and political; equality of status and opportunity and dignity to the individual. Thus treating both men and women equal.
Article 14 ensures to women the right to equality.
Article 15(1) specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
Article 15(3) empowers the State to take affirmative actions in favour of women.
Article 16 provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office.
Directive Principles of State Policy:
Article 39 (a) provides that the state direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood.
Article 39 (d) mandates equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
Article 42 provides that the state make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief
Salient Features of 1986 IRWA Act:
Indecent representation of women has been defined to mean the depiction in any manner of the figure of a woman, her form or body or any part thereof in such a way as to have the effect of being indecent or derogatory to or denigrating, women or is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals.
It is proposed to prohibit all advertisements, publications, etc. which contain indecent representation of women in any form.
It has also been proposed to prohibit selling, distribution, circulation of any books, pamphlets, etc. containing indecent representation of women.
Offences under the Act are made punishable with imprisonment of wither description for a term extending to two years and fine extending to two thousand rupees on first conviction. Second and subsequent convictions will attract a higher punishment.
Definition of the term advertisement to include digital form or electronic form or hoardings, or through SMS, MMS etc.
Amendment in definition of distribution to include publication, license or uploading using computer resource, or communication device. So, platforms such as WhatsApp, Skype will come under the ambit of IRWA.
Insertion of a new definition to define the term publish
Amendment in section 4 to include that No person shall publish or distribute or cause to be published or cause to be distributed by any means any material which contains indecent representation of women in any form.
Penalty similar to that provided under the Information Technology Act, 2000
Creation of a Centralised Authority under the aegis of National Commission of Women (NCW). This Authority will be headed by Member Secretary, NCW, having representatives from Advertising Standards Council of India, Press Council of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and one member having experience of working on women issues.
This Centralised Authority will be authorized to receive complaints or grievances regarding any programme or advertisement broadcasted or publication and investigate/ examine all matters relating to the indecent representation of women.
Why the amendment was needed?
Since the enactment of the Act, technological revolution has resulted in the development of new forms of communication, such as internet, multi-media messaging, over-the-top (OTT) services and applications like Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Chat On, Snapchat etc. The 1986 Act failed to cover the digital services which have become the major tool for cyber stalking and indecent representation of women. Thus the amendment aimed to broaden the scope of the law to 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 media form on the other.