The Women and Child Development Ministry’s  proposed amendment to make indecent representation of women on digital messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Skype illegal is quite a refreshing move.

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986 is already there but the ministry wants to widen the domain of the act by involving observations made by a parliamentary standing committee and suggestions from the National Commission for Women.

A statement from the ministry said, “Since the enactment of the Act, technological revolution has resulted in the development of new forms of communication, such as internet, multi-media messaging, over-the-top (OTT) services and applications like Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Chat On, Snapchat etc.

Keeping in mind these technological advancements, we decided to widen the scope of the law so as to cover such forms of media on one hand and to strengthen the existing safeguards to prevent indecent representation of women through any media form on the other.”

“The reformulated draft bill proposes amendment in definition of term advertisement to include digital form or electronic form or hoardings, or SMS, MMS etc,” it added.

WCD ministry “proposed amendments in definition of distribution to include publication, license or uploading using computer resource, or communication device and amendment in Section 4 to include that no person shall publish or distribute or cause to be published or cause to be distributed by any means any material which contains indecent representation of women in any form.”

It has also recommended that it must penalize the offender in the same manner as punished under Information Technology Act, 2000. Other than this, it suggested a centralized authority guided by the National Commission for Women.

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It has also recommended that it must penalize the offender in the same manner as punished under Information Technology Act, 2000. Other than this, it suggested a centralized authority guided by the National Commission for Women.

The ministry proposes that Member Secretary, NCW will head this authority with a team of members from Advertising Standards Council of India, Press Council of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and one member having experience of working on women issues.

“This centralised authority will be authorized to receive complaints or grievances regarding any programme or advertisement broadcast or publication and investigate/ examine all matters relating to the indecent representation of women,” the statement read.

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA), 1986 prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements, publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.

In December, 2012 the Minister of State (Independent), Women and Child Development, Smt Krishna Tirath introduced The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2012 in the Rajya Sabha in December, 2012 which referred the Bill to the department-related Parliament Standing Committee for consideration.

Picture credit- IB Times

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