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The government Thursday approved amendments to a legislation against indecent representation of women, making it more stringent by increasing the fine and jail term, apart from expanding its scope to include audio-visual and electronic media within its ambit.

The amended legislation will now be introduced in parliament for approval.

“The union cabinet today (Thursday) approved the introduction of amendments to the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 in parliament,” a government release said soon after the cabinet met here under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Among the key amendments proposed are broadening the scope of the law to cover the audio-visual media and material in electronic form, the release said.

The government said the amendments sought to ensure that more effective protection is provided against indecent representation of women by covering newer forms of communication like Internet and multimedia messaging, beyond the print and audio-visual media.

“This would aid in addressing the problem of increased objectification of women thereby ensuring dignity of women,” the release said.

Under the amended law, penalties will be enhanced to a maximum of three years of imprisonment and fine between Rs.50,000 and Rs.100,000 for first conviction.

A second conviction under the law will invite an imprisonment of not less than two years, but which may extend to seven years, and a fine between Rs.100,000 and Rs.500,000.

Police officers not below the rank of inspectors will be authorised to carry out searches and seizures under the law, in addition to state and central government officers authorised by the state or central government.

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 (IRWA) focuses on indecent representation of women and brings under its ambit references that are derogatory to the dignity of women.

The IRWA was enacted with the specific objective of prohibiting the indecent representation of women through advertisement, publication, writing, and painting or in any other manner.

The existing law, in its present form, covers the print media.

However, over the years, technological revolution has resulted in the development of newer forms of communication such as Internet and satellite-based communication, multi-media messaging, and cable television.

“It has, therefore, become imperative 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 such form,” the release said.

The government felt that though IRWA was enacted with the objective of prohibiting indecent representation of women in any advertisement or publication, the existing legislation lacked the focus that is necessary to protect women from exploitation, particularly in the face of the increasing use of advanced technology and communication devices in our everyday life.

“It was felt that the scope of the Act may need to be amended. Extensive consultations have been held with stakeholders, including lawyers and civil society organisations, on the draft bill, before its finalisation,” it added.

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