Outraging the Modesty of Women

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INTRODUCTION
Modesty is not only an ornament, but also a guard to virtue… Crimes against women be it female infanticide, child marriage, pedophilia, sexual harassment, dowry deaths, physical abuse, etc follow them as a constant scare from cradle to grave. We might just believe that position of women in our country has improved, especially in bigger states, but that is nothing other than a myth. We might have progressed but what’s the point in boasting of our growth-story if it hasn’t taught us to respect the modesty of women? Women still find it hard to gain respect and security at home, leave alone outside. Work places have issues like sexual harassment imbedded in the work culture, when it comes to female employees. Public transport still gives the entire female population using it, a time of hell. She is failed to be accorded with the respect she is entitled to claim, as a human being. WHY STRIP WOMEN OF MODESTY?

Women are so often, literally and metaphorically, stripped of their dignity that they most often just refuse to stand up on their own for themselves. Take the recent Mangalore pub assault episode, which took place on January 24, 2009, when the activists of Sri Rama Sena barged into a pub and violently beat up the girls present there in the name of preserving Indian culture. These self-styled activists claim they were trying to uphold the moral culture of our society. How is subjecting women to humiliation and violence moral? And just who is policing the morals of this group? And how can I forget to mention the shameful role played by the media. Not one of the media persons tried to help the victims - they ran after them with their cameras as they were being thrashed and chased and recorded everything faithfully. Take other incidents like that of terror against Christian women (especially nuns) in Orissa and Karnataka; or the previous incidents of violence against women in northeast (many of which were acts of rape and harassment committed by Army officers), and well why go far take the case of a false sting operation against Uma Khurana in Delhi where after the sting was telecast on a national news channel a mob stripped the innocent school teacher. Women are being forced to run with shattered and tattered pieces of clothes on streets, and it’s really shameful that people watch as mere spectators. OUTRAGING THE MODESTY OF WOMEN: IN THE EYES OF LAW

Before proceeding further let us go through Section 354 of Indian Penal Code. It is a gender specific section protecting the modesty of a woman. It states that: "Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both". ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS

An offence under this section has following essentials ingredients: i. That the assault must be on a woman.
ii. That the accused must have used criminal force on her. iii. That such an assault or insult was intended to outrage (or knowing it to be likely to outrage) the modesty of such woman. ANYALYSIS OF THE INGREDIENTS

MODESTY: In the ordinary language “modest” means freedom from conceit or vanity or propriety in dress, speech and conduct. It relates to the decency of women. “Modesty" is nowhere defined in the Indian Penal Code, however it means "womanly propriety of behavior, scrupulous chastity of thought, speech and conduct (in men or women) reserve or sense of shame proceeding from instinctive aversion to impure or coarse suggestions" (Oxford English Dictionary,1933 Edn.). The word “outrage” has affinity with extremely rude, violent, injurious or insulting act on one hand and it is concerned with guilt, culpability, criminality and deviation from decency on the part of person committing assault or using criminal force on a woman. IS AGE OF GIRL A RELEVANT FACTOR?

NO, says the Supreme Court....
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