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Problems in the Indian Law on Voyeurism

By the 2013 Criminal Amendment, the Section 354 C along with other sections, were inserted in the Indian Penal Code. However, the Section 354 C apparently has a number of drawbacks. This article tries to provide a comprehensive view on the drawbacks in the specific Section of the IPC as well as the drawbacks in the system which prevents the law from properly being enforced.

DOES NOT COVER FULL SCOPE OF THE OFFENCE

  1. THE GENDER GAP
    The Gender gap in the Indian law is the biggest drawback in the Indian law on Voyeurism and hence has been dealt with in another article called ‘Gender Neutrality in Laws’. However, it is important to note that this is one of the biggest drawbacks of the law on Voyeurism in India. Voyeurism is a gender neutral offence. Although it often affects women, it is unlike the other women welfare legislations. Here, it is very much possible that a man is a victim of Voyeurism. In case a couple is filmed while being intimate, the male person has no remedy in such cases. Also, it cannot be said that it is impossible for men to be victims of Voyeurism. Also, the perpetrator in the present law can only be a man. Hence, women perpetrators get away scot free. This is a clear violation of the Right to Equality under the Indian Constitution.
  2. INTENTION OF SEXUAL GRATIFICATION
    It is essential to add that the intention of the victim should be that of sexual gratification. The current law on Voyeurism does not have such a meaning. Due to this, innocent people can be harmed. Intention is of course the core of criminal law, but the intention of sexual gratification needs to be mentioned in the definition.
  3. CLOTHED BUT NOT EXPECTED TO BE OBSERVED
    The law on Voyeurism also does not include a victim, who is clothed, but may still have a reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g. clothed but engaged in a private act, incidents of up skirt and down blouse)
  4. EXPECTATION SHOULD BE REASONABLE
    It is necessary to mention that the expectation of privacy by the victim ought to be a reasonable expectation. Unreasonable expectation of privacy can infringe the rights of an accused. Reasonability is the test which should be applied by the Court in case of any confusion.
  5. CONSENT
    The law also does not specifically mention that Voyeurism happens only in absence of consent from the victim. The wordings ‘expectation of privacy’ does incorporate, to some extent, the concept of consent. However, it is always better to be clear about such an important concept to prevent any misinterpretation.
  6. ABSENCE OF PREVENTIVE MECHANISM
    The most important provision which is missing from the present law is a preventive mechanism to prevent the offence of Voyeurism from ever taking place. When such an offence occurs, the victim is faced with a great deal of embarrassment. This embarrassment can heighten to such an extent that many victims are known to have committed suicide. The victim, in such cases only desires that the viral data is deleted from all places and no further spread takes place. Punishment of the perpetrator is only a secondary desire of the victim. The present law on Voyeurism provides for punishment to the perpetrator in case of commission of the offence but no preventive measures are present. To solve this immense problem, the draft Bill made by our NGO, makes provisions for the prevention of Voyeurism by setting up of an Anti-Voyeurism Bureau at different which may issue licenses, perform searches of premises, etc and ensure that Voyeurism is prevented.
  7. REMEDIAL MEASURES

    It is also important to mention that in India and all over the world, obsessive Voyeurism is also considered a mental disorder. Hence, provision need to be made for rehabilitation of the offenders to ensure non-recurrence of such incidents.

    When such a crime takes place, as explained above, the victim has to go through an ordeal in order to get the offender punished and is still not satisfied as the embarrassment they have faced cannot be remedied. For this reason, it is necessary to provide for counseling and rehabilitation for the victim as well.

    PROBLEMS IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
  1. THE POLICE SYSTEM

    It is often seen that in cases of Voyeurism, the Police are quite unaware of how to handle such a situation. It is of utmost importance to try and trace the source which has uploaded the material to the internet to prevent spread of it. If it has been spread on some social networking site, the police need to contact the administration of such sites to remove all such content. Also, the police have to do their ordinary duty of finding the perpetrator. However, the Police are only aware of traditional methods of solving a crime. They find it hard to handle issues related to cyber crime as such. Many cyber crime branches of police stations are badly equipped, be it manpower or technical support.

    Often, the Voyeuristic material is watched by a number of Police officers present at the police station which leads to the embarrassment of the victim and due to this the reporting of such crimes is low as well. For this reason, we have provided for male and female officers in a special Bureau constituted under our Voyeurism Act to ensure that female as well as male victims are more comfortable when they approach the Bureau. The Bureau will reduce, in some proportion, the burden of the Police and the members will be experts at dealing with such issues.

  2. THE JUDICIARY
    The same problem has been seen in the Judiciary. The judges are no experts of cyber crime and hence find it difficult to handle the proceedings in such case. There ought to be more awareness about the crime of Voyeurism especially in the Police and Judiciary. They have to be taught how to better handle such cases if they ever encounter one. This can be done by arranging for training and seminars for the Police as well as Judiciary.
  3. AWARENESS BY THE GOVERNMENT

    For the better implementation of any law, the general public needs to have better awareness regarding the crime of Voyeurism, the ways in which it occurs, the modes of commission, etc. One of the main aims of our NGO is to spread such awareness, so that every individual is alert about Voyeurism and is in the know of what has to be done in case such a thing ever occurs.

    Just like in the case of other crimes, seminars in colleges, advertisements, etc can be use by the government and other NGO's to alert the people about this offence, its widespread prevalence and its consequences. It is necessary that such awareness campaigns should not restrict people to certain places or situations (e.g. Moral Policing) , but to make them aware of how to deal with the situations they encounter.

  4. NEED FOR RESEARCH
    The offence of Voyeurism is a new age crime and in on the rise due to easy availability of cameras and other electronic gadgets. There are limited means to prevent spread of Voyeuristic material or to remove the content completely from the internet. This is still a growing subject and requires research. Hence, there is need for a research wing which can research methods of prevention of Voyeurism, detection of cameras, stopping spread of content or removing the content from the internet, etc. Advance electronic devices ought to available with the Bureau to properly handle each case before them.

CONCLUSION The number of problems arising out of this offence is huge and hence, there is need for a separate law which provides for all such provisions to prevent to the extent best possible any such cases and to properly handle such cases if any do occur. Accordingly, our team at Anti-Voyeurism forum has taken the responsibility of drafting a law which includes all such provisions. The draft bill is available on the website.
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