Voyeurism is the most prevalent and potentially illegal sexual conduct. It is the practice of watching other people's sexual activities without their consent. In this type of offense, physical contact is not there, even if the sexual crime is in nature. According to the recent reports by NCRB, the total number of cases of voyeurism disposed of by Police in the year 2021 is 1403. Although these occurrences are recorded, many cases are not, either by the victims or their families. The complexity of the criminal justice system, lack of awareness of the criminal procedure, and reluctance to report sexual offenses to the police can all make victims of sexual crimes hesitant to do so. Here in this article, we’ll look into the meaning of voyeurism, various provisions rendered for voyeurism under the Indian Law System, and how a woman can deal with it.
The origin of the word “voyeurism” is voyeur, which is a French word meaning “one who looks.” It refers to an action by any male of looking at a woman secretly. It is an act that invades someone else's personal space and privacy. Putting someone in a position where you determine whether or not to see their body or personal activities is atrocious and more damaging to their mental health than it is to their physical health. This can occur either by unauthorized observation, like installing a camera in the courtroom, or through the dissemination of recordings or images against the victim's choice and preference, such as posting nude or semi-naked photos online.
Provisions of Voyeurism under IPC - 354C
Under the Indian Penal Code 1860, Voyeurism is explained as follows:
“Section 354C. Voyeurism.— Any man who watches or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such image shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend to three years. It shall also be liable to a fine and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, 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 a fine.
Explanation 1. — For the purpose of this section, “private act” includes an act of watching carried out in a place which, in the circumstances, would reasonably be expected to provide privacy and where the victim's genitals, posterior, or breasts are exposed or covered only in underwear; or the victim is using a lavatory, or the victim is doing a sexual act that is not of a kind ordinarily done in public.
Explanation 2. — Where the victim consents to the capture of the images or any act, but not to their dissemination to third persons, and where such image or act is disseminated, such dissemination shall be considered an offense under this section.”
Provision of Voyeurism under IT Act, 2000
Under the IT Act 2000, the punishment for violation of privacy is stated as-
“Section 67- Punishment for violation of privacy. – Whoever intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes, or transmits the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent, under the circumstances violating the privacy of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment, which may extend to three years or with fine not exceeding two lakh rupees, or with both.”
What can be done?
An FIR could be made by the victim. Only a female police officer may report crimes like sexual harassment, voyeurism, stalking, rape, etc. The woman has two options for expressing her complaint: verbally or in writing. A written copy of the report must be filed by the officer in charge. The sooner the FIR is filed following a crime, the better. The FIR's information should be "as explicit and precise as feasible." Any person found guilty of this offense faces a first-time sentence of confinement of either kind for a term that must not be less than one year but may go as high as three years, as well as the possibility of a fine and a second- or subsequent sentence of imprisonment of either kind for a term that must not be less than three years but may go as high as seven years, as well as the possibility of a fine. For the first conviction of this specific offense, bail is available; for the second, it is not.
To some extent, voyeurism, offline stalking, and online stalking can be curbed by general people being vigilant in their surroundings and using the internet with prudence. Individuals should exercise caution when exercising intimacy with any adjacent foreign object to prevent voyeurism-related offenses. Police can only conduct an effective investigation when the legal system allows them some degree of discretion. It is the need of the hour to revisit the current criminal law of India, which is outdated and written in the colonial era. Indian criminal law has undergone numerous revisions better to meet the needs and ambitions of the people. But it's time to make some fresh reforms so that the police and other investigating organizations can effectively look into crimes. Innovative ideas like community policing ought to be prioritized while still being subject to limits on authority and freedom. It is necessary to strengthen police patrols in empty urban and rural areas. The abuse of authority, even by police officers, should be regularly monitored to ensure that they always act following the law.