Assault against women is a matter of great concern constituting a grave violation of their basic human rights. Any kind of violence or crime against them leaves a deep impact on their lives affecting their day-to-day activities and potential to grow. Such incidents are required to be managed so that every woman and girl in this world can live with honor, respect, liberty, peace, and dignity. In Indian law, various legal provisions protect women and girls from any sort of violence or crime against them. Some of the important provisions for victim women are illustrated under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. In this article, we will delve into the important provisions that illustrate offences affecting the human body specifically of a woman via criminal force and assault. We will cover Section 354, Section 354A, Section 354B, Section 354C, and Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Offences against women under IPC

Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty

Section 354 of IPC: Assault with Intent to Outrage Modesty

  • Applies to assault or use of criminal force against a woman.
  • Intent must be to outrage her modesty or it should be known that such an act is likely to outrage her modesty.
  • Punishment includes imprisonment ranging from one to five years, along with a fine.

Section 509 of IPC: Insult to Modesty

  • Covers actions like uttering words, making sounds, gestures, or exhibiting objects intending to insult a woman’s modesty.
  • Punishment can extend to imprisonment for up to three years and may also include a fine.

These sections of the Indian Penal Code aim to protect women from indecent acts that undermine their dignity and modesty, ensuring legal repercussions for offenders.

Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment

Section 354A of the IPC, 1860 was introduced through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, following a Supreme Court ruling addressing sexual harassment at workplaces. According to this Section:

  • Actions such as making unwelcome physical contact, explicit sexual advances, demanding sexual favors, or showing pornography against a woman’s will constitute sexual harassment.
  • Offenders face punishment with rigorous imprisonment up to 3 years, or a fine, or both, for acts (1), (2), and (3) mentioned above.
  • Making sexually colored remarks against a woman can lead to imprisonment up to 1 year, or a fine, or both.

In response to workplace sexual harassment, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was enacted in 2013 to safeguard women’s rights and provide mechanisms for redressal.

Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe

Section 354B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with ‘assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe’ as well as illustrates punishment for those who commit such an offence. It states that “Any man who assaults or uses criminal force to any woman or abets such act with the intention of disrobing or compelling her to be naked, shall be punished 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 fine.” Certain essential elements of the offence include:

  • A man should be the accused who is committing the assault.
  • There should be the use of criminal force or abetment or assault of any such act.
  • The intention of disrobing or compelling the victim (woman) to be naked.


section 354C of the IPC, 1860 addresses voyeurism, defined as deriving sexual gratification from observing others or enjoying private, scandalous aspects. The law specifies that any man who watches or captures images of a woman engaged in a private act where she expects privacy, or who disseminates such images, commits an offence.

On first conviction, the offender faces imprisonment from 1 to 3 years and a fine. For subsequent convictions, the punishment escalates to imprisonment from 3 to 7 years, also with a fine.

The term ‘private act’ includes situations where a person reasonably expects privacy, such as when genitals, posterior, or breasts are exposed in private settings, during bathroom use, or during non-public sexual acts. Even if the victim consents to image capture but not to dissemination, it constitutes an offence under Section 354C.


Stalking, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the act of intentionally and repeatedly following or harassing another person under circumstances that would reasonably cause fear of injury or death, often involving threats, whether explicit or implied. In India, stalking is governed by Section 354D of the IPC, 1860.

According to Section 354D, stalking includes:

  • Persistently following or attempting to contact a woman to initiate personal interaction, despite clear signs of her disinterest.
  • Monitoring a woman’s use of electronic communication like the internet or email.

Upon first conviction, the offender faces imprisonment up to 3 years and a fine. For subsequent convictions, the punishment can extend up to 5 years along with a fine.

Section 354D also outlines exceptions where such conduct may not constitute stalking, such as when pursued to prevent or detect crime, or when justified under particular circumstances as deemed reasonable.

Related Case Laws

Ram Das vs. State of West Bengal (February 24, 1954)

  1. The appellant was initially convicted by the First Class Magistrate, Hoogly, under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sentenced to two years’ rigorous imprisonment. Subsequent appeals to the Sessions Judge and a revision petition to the High Court were unsuccessful. The case has now reached us for special leave under Article 136.
  2. Here are the undisputed facts:
    • Smt. Parul Bhattacharya (P. W. 6), accompanied by P. W. 5, boarded the Moghalsarai Passenger train to join her husband after childbirth.
    • Another passenger, Jyotsna Das (P. W. 9), joined with P. W. 1 at Howrah to visit her ill father in Barakar.
    • After other passengers left at Panduah, only P. Ws. 1, 5, 6, and 9 remained in the compartment.
    • The appellant switched to their compartment from an overcrowded one at Panduah.
    • A scuffle ensued during which the appellant assaulted P. W. 6, who suffered injuries.
  3. The appellant’s assault on P. W. 6 is established beyond doubt, as corroborated by witness testimonies and medical examination.
  4. However, the crucial question is whether the appellant assaulted P. W. 6 with the intent to outrage her modesty, which has not been convincingly proven:
    • Allegations that he forcibly embraced the women or behaved lewdly were not well-supported by evidence.
    • Witness accounts varied on whether the appellant’s actions were sexually motivated or merely aggressive due to a dispute over seating.
  5. The incident seems to have stemmed from a dispute over seating arrangements rather than a deliberate attempt to outrage modesty:
    • Witnesses reported the appellant attempting to secure a berth and facing resistance from P. W. 6, leading to a physical altercation.
  6. The lower courts did not adequately consider whether the appellant’s actions constituted an offence under Section 354. They focused primarily on the assault itself rather than the intent behind it.
  1. The appellant’s defense suggested that the altercation arose from a misunderstanding and denied any lewd intent towards the women.
  2. Based on the evidence and circumstances:
    • The appellant is acquitted of the charge under Section 354.
    • Instead, he is convicted under Section 352 for assault, considering his behavior and the injuries inflicted.
  3. Regarding sentencing:
    • Despite being a railway officer, his behavior towards passengers warrants censure.
    • He is sentenced to three months’ rigorous imprisonment under Section 352, the maximum penalty allowable.
  4. The appellant had already served a significant portion of the original sentence before being released on bail, thus avoiding further imprisonment.

In conclusion, while the appellant’s assault on P. W. 6 is established, there was insufficient evidence to prove an intent to outrage her modesty. Therefore, the conviction is modified, and a reduced sentence is imposed based on the charge of assault.


The Indian Penal Code (IPC) plays a crucial role in safeguarding women from criminal force and assault. However, despite these legal protections, the incidence of crimes against women is alarmingly on the rise. Addressing this trend requires a significant shift in societal attitudes and behaviors towards women. Instilling moral values, social ethics, and fostering respect for women in individuals would serve as essential factors in mitigating the escalating crime rates against women.

Khushboo handa (trainee)

Assault against women: Sections 354A-D IPC

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