Section 354 A, 354 B, 354C and 354D have now been inserted in the Indian Penal Code after the already existing section 354
Section 354A deals with the definition of “sexual harassment” which is very broadly defined and criminalizes acts like forcibly showing pornography, physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures, demanding or requesting sexual favours, any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. This section further deals with the punishment to be awarded for the offence depending upon the act in question.
While demanding or requesting sexual favours and physical contact or advances which involve unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures is punishable with rigorous imprisonment of a term which may extend to five years or with fine or with both, the other three acts enumerated above attract a lesser term which may extend to one year or fine or both.
A bare reading of this section shows that it is gender neutral in nature.
Section 354B deals with offence where criminal force or assault is used up on a woman with the intention of disrobing her or compelling her to be naked in public and penalizes the same with an imprisonment term which shall not be less than three years but may extend to seven years and also attract fine. This section deals with a very specific offence and adds to and will supplement the provision dealing with the offence of outraging the modesty of a woman. This is a welcome provision in view of the fact that many cases have been reported in the news of women being stripped in public as an instrument of punishment mostly in backward areas.
Section 354 C also deals with the specific act of either watching or capturing the images of a woman engaging in a private act where she expects privacy and observation by the perpetrator or any other person at the behest of the perpetrator is not likely. Such watching or capturing images of a woman is criminalized and attracts an imprisonment term which shall not be less than one year but may extend to three years and fine. Also on a subsequent conviction the minimum imprisonment term shall be that of three years extendable to seven years and also fine.
For the purpose of this section the offence is widely defined and includes a situation where the victim may have consented to the capturing of images or any act but not agreed to the dissemination of the same to any third person.
Section 354 D criminalizes the act of stalking which interferes with the mental peace of a person or causes distress, fear of violence or alarm. The same is punishable with a minimum imprisonment term of one year which may extend to three years and also liable with fine. However, the offence is subject to certain exceptions like where a person can show that the acts done were in pursuance of some law, amounted to reasonable conduct or in order to prevention of some crime.