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For the past ten years, women's organisations have complained about how the media portrays women. Women's issues include how dowries are portrayed in advertisements to parents, how a "nice" lady is equated with a wife, and how a vegetable oil brand is associated with motherhood. It is true that the quantity of dowry-related advertisements has dropped as a result of the conflict within women's organisations. Yet, these initiatives have minimal effect on the number of ads that promote pornographic content and sexist stereotypes, which has increased.

From a societal perspective, it is challenging to see the cause-and-effect relationship, but it is clear from the effects depicted in various media that this type of degrading portrayal of women causes a decline in the societal environment in the form of increasing crime and abuse against the ordinary person. The Indecent Representation of Women Act, 1986, which forbids the vulgar and indecent representation of women and punishes those who violate it, was passed by the Central Government to put an end to this crime.

History of the Act

In response to a women's movement that demanded legislative action against the demeaning portrayal of women in the nation, the Rajya Sabha Bill against Women's Indecent Representation was introduced in 1986. Margaret Alva presented the measure in the Rajya Sabha, and it was enacted into law in October 1987.

Women's representation in print media in particular was to be governed by legislation. It was put in place to make sure that women were not shown indecently in advertisements, periodicals, publications, and pictures.

Purpose of the Act

In this nation, the legislation on obscenity is codified in The Indian Criminal Code Sections 292, 293 and Section 294. Notwithstanding these restrictions, there is an increase in indecent representations of or references to women in media, particularly in advertisements, which both denigrates women and has an effect on them. These commercials, publications, etc. have a depraving or corrupting effect despite the fact that there may not be a stated goal. So, new legislation is required to effectively stop the ambiguous portrayal of women in ads, publications, pamphlets, etc.

The meaning of "indecency"

The term "indecent representation" is defined as "indecent representation of women" in any way that has the effect of being offensive or derogatory of a woman, or of being crooked or of being vulnerable to public morality, or moralistic depravity, in Section 2(c) of the Indecent Representation of Women Act, 1986. The definition of "indecent representation" in the law from 1986 emphasises "depriving or corrupting" substance, which is mistaken for morality. Women's organisations condemned the overly conventional or sexually provocative depictions of women in the 1970s and 1980s, which helped to reinforce the idea that expressing one's sexuality, especially that of a woman, is offensive. These depictions generally centred on nudity.

The lawsuit was filed in Kolkata against the editor of Anandabazar Patrika, Aveek Sarkar, and the publisher in relation to the portrayal of the naked image of the former player Boris Becker and of his fiancée at Sportsworld, released by the corporation in May 1993. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there has been a 46.50% drop in individual female représentation cases, from 2,917 in 2005 to 1,562 in 2006.

In images that were published by a Tamil tabloid in April 2006, a Madurai court issued non-bailable warrants against Reema Sen and Shilpa Shetty for obscenely posing. According to the study, the warrants were issued because the two actresses disobeyed earlier summonses for the same reason. The petitioner claimed that the newspaper featured "extremely sexy blow-ups and medium blow-ups" in its issues from December 2005 and January 2006, violating Section 292 of the Indian Criminal Code, the Young People (Harmful Publications) Act, and the Obscene Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act. In addition, the complainant sought that the images be seized in accordance with the Press and Registration of Book Act of 1867.

Authorities granted to officers and the government by the Act

The Indecent Representation of Women Act penalises indecent depictions of women, which imply a woman's image in some way; her form or body and any feature of the woman's body, so as to create immorality, degradation, or to deprave, abuse, or harm to public morals or moral norms. No one is allowed to consent to engage in the publication or programme, or to distribute any advertisements that feature vulgar portrayals of women.

Section 5: Entry and Search Power

The officer has the right to enter and examine any business within the area under Section 5 of the Indecent Representation of Women Act of 1986.

(1) Within the local bounds of the area for which it has been so authorised, any gazetted officer approved by the State Government may, subject to any restrictions that may be imposed;

With such assistance, he may enter and search any location at any reasonable time where he has reason to believe that an offence against this Act has been or is being committed; he may also seize any writing, pamphlet, book, pamphlet, paper, slide, film, writing, drawing, painting, photograph, representation, or figure that he believes to be in violation of this Law;

If he has reason to believe it can give evidence of an offence punishable under this Act, he has the authority to examine and seize any record, register, document, or other material object found in any of the places mentioned in Clause(a):

Assuming that a private dwelling-house cannot be entered in accordance with this article without a warrant:

Furthermore, the sub-section of this law states that the power to seize may be used in relation to any document, article, or item that contains the advertisement, including any contents of such document, article, or item, if the advertisement cannot be separated from the document, article, or item without compromising its integrity or ability to be used.

(2) Any search or seizure conducted under this Act that is authorised by a warrant granted under Section 94 of that Law shall be subject to the requirements of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 (2 of 1974), to the extent practicable.

(3) The person who seizes anything mentioned in clauses (b) or (c) of subsection (1) must notify the closest magistrate as soon as feasible and follow his directions for how to handle the item in question.

Penalties in Section 6

The offender is subject to punishment under Section 6 of The Indecent Representation of Women Act, 1986. The terms and a fine up to ten thousand rupees, along with the terms that apply in the event of a second or subsequent prosecution, shall take the place of the words or fine that may exceed two thousand rupees. The penalty cannot be less than six months but can range from five years to at least ten thousand rupees. The phrases shall be substituted for the former ones in the event of a subsequent conviction, to a term of not less than six months, but not less than five years, and not less than 50,000 rupees, but not less than five lakh rupees. They won't serve more than five years in prison.

Section 8: Crimes must be punishable by law and bailable

Despite all of the requirements of the 1973 (2 of 1974) Criminal Process Code, an offence penalised under this Act is subject to bail, according to Section 8 of the Indecent Representation of Women Act, 1986. And every offence that this Act recognises will carry a penalty.

Section 9: Protection for good faith actions

The Central Government, any government or other central government officer, or any other State government official shall not be liable against any action, prosecution, or other legal proceedings for anything done or intended in good faith in accordance with this Act, according to Section 9 of the Indecent Representation of Women Act, 1986.

Section 10: Rule-making authority

According to Section 10 of the Indecent Representation of Women Act of 1986, the Central Government may establish regulations by publishing a notification in the official gazette. Without affecting the generality of the preceding force, these rules can specifically address all or any of the following difficulties, i.e.

  • how to confiscate ads or other items, how to compile and provide the confiscation list to the individual from whom any ads or other items were taken;
  • anything else that might or might not need to be prescribed.

If both Houses agree to make any changes before the end of the session immediately after the session or the successive sessions referred to above, any rule made in accordance with this Act must be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as practicable after it has been made, while it is in session for a total of thirty days, which may consist of one session or two or more successive sessions.


Without a doubt, the Act created women's indecent portrayal, although this list is not all-inclusive. The courts are free to interpret it however they see fit. It is a successful law for safeguarding the integrity and reputation of women, but its effectiveness relies on how it is put into practise. The act's provisions granting any gazette officer the authority to search for and seize lewd property led to widespread corruption. Also, the penalties are not severe; the amount of the fee and the sentence for repeat offenders are much smaller

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