Vulgarity, a subjective term open to interpretation, involves indecent or offensive behaviour, speech, or display. In the context of women, it may manifest as objectification, sexualization, or actions that reduce them to mere objects of desire. This issue significantly affects both society and women’s well-being.
Understanding the implications of vulgarity is crucial. Legal remedies play a vital role in addressing this societal plight and promoting a more respectful and inclusive environment for everyone.
UNDERSTANDING VULGAR DISPLAY OF WOMEN
The term “vulgar display of women” involves showcasing or representing women in a way that is explicitly sexual, derogatory, or demeaning when done publicly. This encompasses behaviours like catcalling, making inappropriate gestures, verbal harassment, and sharing explicit images without consent. Beyond merely objectifying women, these actions contribute to the persistence of damaging stereotypes and the reinforcement of gender inequality. The negative impact extends beyond the immediate act, affecting societal perceptions and perpetuating harmful norms.
IMPACT OF VULGAR DISPLAY OF WOMEN
The widespread presence of vulgarity in society negatively impacts various aspects of our social structure. It not only normalizes disrespectful behaviour but also cultivates a culture that tolerates inequality and sexism. Vulgar displays devalue and dehumanise women, perpetuating harmful power dynamics with several adverse effects:
Reinforcement of Gender Stereotypes: Vulgar displays uphold outdated gender stereotypes, linking women predominantly to their sexual appeal rather than recognising their abilities, achievements, or intellect. This, in turn, contributes to gender discrimination, restricting opportunities for women in different areas of life.
Normalization of Violence: Objectifying women through vulgar displays creates an environment that accepts violence against them as normal. This normalization can desensitise individuals to the seriousness of physical and emotional harm inflicted on women.
Psychological Trauma: Women subjected to vulgar displays often endure significant psychological trauma, ranging from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The constant fear of objectification or harassment has a detrimental impact on their mental well-being.
Legal Measures Against Vulgar Display of Women: To address the societal problem of vulgar displays, legal frameworks have been established to provide women with recourse and uphold norms that encourage respect, equality, and dignity. Notably, laws like Sections 354A to 354D of the Indian Penal Code have been enacted to combat such behaviours.
Section 354A: -Sexual Harassment
Any unwanted physical contact or approaches with overtly sexual undertones are illegal under this provision. It acknowledges that women have the right to live and work without having to worry about being harassed sexually.
Section 354 B: -Voyeurism
Voyeurism-related offences, such as taking and sharing pictures of a lady performing a private act without her agreement, are included under Section 354B. It seeks to uphold the dignity and privacy of women.
Section-354 C:- Disrobing
The act of forcing a woman to be stripped or undressed against her will is especially covered in this section. It recognises the suffering that these circumstances cause to women and offers legal recourse for the transgression.
Section 354D expressly targets stalking as a behaviour that results in serious mental distress. It acknowledges the gravity of the situation and gives women the legal tools to shield themselves from unauthorised monitoring.
Meaning of term modesty in the context of Section 354 of IPC
According to the Supreme Court, a woman’s sex is fundamental to her modesty. The essential issue is the accused’s guilty intention.
Demands that she undress, disparaging remarks, coercing her into committing sexual assault, and voyeurism are a few instances of actions that might be considered outraging a woman’s modesty.
CASE: The State of Punjab V. Major Singh AIR 1967 SC 63
Court: Supreme Court of India
Appellant: The State of Punjab
Respondent: Major Singh
Bench: Justice A.S.Sarkar, Justice J.R. Mudholkar and Justice R.S Bachawat.
Disposition: in favour of the appellant
About nine-thirty at night, the baby was fast asleep in the room. Major Singh, the accused, turned out the lights after finding the child alone in the room. Then he crouch down and bends over her, baring his stomach. In this indecent stance, he displays his unnatural desire, rupturing the hymen and causing a 3/4-inch-long tear in her vagina. He flees as the mother comes in and flicks on the light.
“Whether the appellant having to finger the private parts of a girl of 7 and a half months old causing injury to those parts, has or has not committed an offence under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code?”
Given that the accused (respondent) intentionally interfered with the child’s vagina, causing harm to the seven and a half-month-old, it can be concluded that his actions were intended to insult her modesty. As a result, he will face consequences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
The appeal is accepted in light of the majority’s decision, and the respondent’s conviction is changed to one under section 354 of the I.P.C., which carries a rigorous two-year jail sentence, a $1,000 fine, and, in the event that the sentence is not followed, a six-month rigorous jail sentence. If the fine is realised, the child will receive compensation in the amount of Rs. 500/-.
THE RATIO OF THE CASE
In the current High Court case, two of the three judges listed how a woman’s capacity for modesty might be offended at any age and that a woman can be born modest.
Since the court decided that modesty is a quality that all individuals should possess, regardless of age, in this particular situation modesty is a birthright since the girl, who is seven and a half years old, is capable of expressing anger. Section 354 determined that Major Singh, the respondent, was accountable for outraging the modesty of the female child with his act. Furthermore, “woman” refers to any female human being, regardless of age, according to Section 10 of the Indian Penal Code.
The court held that modesty has no age restrictions; thus in this particular case, the seven and a half-year-old girl has modesty that can be offended since birth; this is a trait unique to her sex. Major Singh, the respondent, was found guilty under Section 354 of outraging the modesty of the female child through his act.
It is vital that the Indian legal system, responsible for upholding decency and morality through regulatory or punitive measures, remains adaptable to evolving social needs. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) has evolved with time, primarily through active judicial involvement, ensuring its relevance to contemporary challenges. While IPC addresses offenses against women in various sections, amendments have been crucial to align provisions with the changing societal landscape.
Landmark Judgements play a pivotal role by prompting the state to recognize emerging issues and the necessity for legislative adjustments. These rulings underscore the judiciary’s overarching responsibility as a protector of women’s rights. Post these influential judgements, significant developments have been incorporated into the IPC and the broader legal framework of India. Following the principle of ratio decidendi, court observations become legal rules, emphasizing the importance of considering key judgements when formulating and applying laws.