Indecent Representation of Women: IRWA Act amendment

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 Indecent Representation of Women: IRWA Act amendment

  1. What is IRWA?
  2. Why do we need to amend it?
  3. Proposed amendments
  4. Critiques of IRWA amendment
  5. Constitutional angle:

What is IRWA?

  • Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, (IRWA) was enacted 1980.
  • Why? Ans. To prohibiting the indecent representation of women through advertisement, publication, writing, and painting.

Why do we need to amend it?

  • Because the existing Act, in its present form, covers the print media.
  • But, over the years, technological revolution has resulted in the development of newer forms of communication = Internet, youtube, SMS, MMS, Cable TV, Direct to Home (DTH) TV, etc.
  • Therefore, we need to widen the scope of the law so as to cover these new forms of media.
  • + need to increase the punishment.

Proposed amendments

In Oct 2012, the Union Cabinet approved following Amendments in IRWA 1986

  1. law will cover the audio-visual media and material in electronic form.
  2. Penalties to be enhanced
Maximum jail Fines
First conviction 3 years 50k to 1 lakh
Repeat offender 7 years 1 lakh to 5 lakhs
  1. Police officers not below the rank of Inspectors will be authorized to carry out search and seizure.

Critiques of IRWA amendment

The move has not gone down well with the television, online and advertising industries. Executives fear the law may be abused by the government to censor content.

  1. the issues the amendments deal with, are already covered under in the IT Act and they have even stronger punishments than the ones given in IRWA Act.
  2. There should be guidelines or parameters that define “indecent”, else the amendments can, at best, be described as “blurry”. What constitutes “indecent” is subjective. Most worrying is that what constitutes indecent will be left to a police inspector to decide.
  3. Indecent representation of any gender across any form of media is not acceptable- Whether it is male, female or child. Hence the name of the Act should be Indecent Representation of (Prohibition) Act, (IRA) instead of Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act.

Constitutional angle:

  1. Fundamental duty (Art 51): It should be duty of every citizen of Inida to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity  of women.
  2. National Commission for Women (NCW; a Statutory body) reviews the Constitutional and Legal safeguards for women.

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