The Ministry of Women and Child Development on June 4, 2018 proposed amendments to the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA), 1986 with an aim to ban obscene and indecent depiction of women on internet.
The amendments were proposed after the government received the inputs from the parliamentary standing committee formed in 2012 to study a bill to bring the law up to date and also from the National Commission for Women.
The original law prohibits the indecent portrayal of women only in the print media via advertisements, publications and paintings. The punishment included is a fine of Rs 2000 and prison term up to two years.
The amendments have been proposed keeping in view the recent technological developments in the field of electronic communication and are similar to the provisions under section 67 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.
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, respectively.
• The Centre proposed amendments to widen the scope of the Indecent Representation of Women Act to include digital and internet-based communication services.
• Once the Parliament passes the proposed amendments, the indecent representation of women in electronic forms through text and online messaging services will be treated as an offence and will attract penalties similar to those under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
• The ministry proposes a fine of Rs 2 lakh and a prison term of up to three years.
• It proposes amendment in the definition of ‘advertisement’ to including digital and electronic form of hoardings i.e. the SMS and MMS.
• It also proposed to amend the definition of ‘distribution’ of material to include publishing, licensing or uploading it digitally.
• It also proposes amendments in Section 4 of the Act to include that no person shall publish or distribute any material which contains indecent representation of women in any form.
• The government has also proposed to include hoardings in the Act as it is limited to traditional media such as books, pamphlets, images and films.
• The proposed amendments call for setting up a central authority under the National Commission of Women to receive and investigate complaints of offences under the law.
• The authority will have representatives from Advertising Standards Council of India, Press Council of India and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.