Voyeurism

We are living in a fast-paced world where there are advancements every day. But with this development our laws have to evolve too. Oxford dictionary defines voyeurism as “the practice of gaining sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity”.

History and Psychology and introduction of voyeurism in the Indian Penal Code,1860:

            Voyeurism is derived from a French word “Voyeur” which means the one who looks. Jonathan M. Metzl in his book from scopophilia to ‘Survivor: a brief history of voyeurism’[1] has talked about the topic in length. While doing so he gives an example by a psychiatrist of a case that happened even before the era of technological advances. In 1945, Otto Fenichel described the case study of a middle-aged male ‘voyeur’ who rented a room in a bordello.1 Rather than engaging in sexual contact himself, the man ‘obtained gratification’ by looking through a peephole into an adjoining room where another man and a woman had intercourse. The voyeur would begin to cry as the activities progressed, a response, according to Fenichel, to the man’s intense feelings of anxiety and his desire that the woman next door leave her partner and come to comfort him. Subsequently, the voyeur would masturbate and would then leave the bordello feeling calm and relaxed, only to return to repeat the scenario the very next day.[2]

According to Fenichel, the man’s short-lived gratification was the result of witnessing a scene that fulfilled specific conditions:

            Voyeurs are fixated on experiences that aroused their castration anxiety, either primal scenes or the sight of adult genitals. The patient attempts to deny the justification of his fright by repeating the frightening scenes with certain alterations, for the purpose of achieving a belated mastery . . . these conditions then represent either a repetition of conditions present in an important childhood experience, or more often a denial of these very conditions or of their dangerous nature. The fact that no sight can actually bring about the reassurance for which patients are striving (forces) voyeurs to look again and again, and to see more and more, with an ever-increasing intensity. Ultimately, they displace their interests . . . to scenes that may better serve as reassurances.[3]

             Voyeurism was introduced in the Indian Penal Code,1860 by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill,2013 after the 2012 ‘Delhi Gang’ rape case that shook the whole country. After the above-mentioned case, a special committee named JUSTICE VERMA COMMITTEE was formed to have a look into the laws related to women. And according to the report given by the committee Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill was introduced to amend the existing provisions of the IPC and for the improvement in the safety of women. The offences that were newly introduced were sexual harassment, stalking and voyeurism.

Provisions regarding voyeurism under different laws:

We live in a world with rapidly developing technology and where each person is now owning a phone of their own. It has become simple for anyone to click any picture of a person and hence such laws to protect women become essential.

The Indian Penal Code defines voyeurism under section 354-c as  “Any man who watches, or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such image shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine, and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, 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.”

Explanation 1. — For the purpose of this section, “private act” includes an act of watching carried out in a place which, in the circumstances, would reasonably be expected to provide privacy and where the victim’s genitals, posterior or breasts are exposed or covered only in underwear; or the victim is using a lavatory; or the victim is doing a sexual act that is not of a kind ordinarily done in public.

Explanation 2. — Where the victim consents to the capture of the images or any act, but not to their dissemination to third persons and where such image or act is disseminated, such dissemination shall be considered an offence under this section.

It is clear from the above definition that any man capturing or watching a woman in a private act, in a situation where she would not expect to be looked at or taken photograph of is thereby committing voyeurism and the person doing so is known as ‘voyeur’.

Under Information Technology Act,2000 section 66E was introduced. Section 66E states

“Whoever, intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent, under circumstances violating the privacy of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine not exceeding two lakh rupees, or with both.”

In R v. Hamilton[4] the accused photographed underneath the skirts of women in a supermarket and subsequently argued that privacy rights did not extend to a supermarket due to its public nature. However, the court rejected this argument and acknowledged that lack of privacy rights creates a lacuna since it legalizes voyeuristic acts in public places.

Conclusion:

Although, there are many provisions for protection of women but still we come across news regarding women being harassed, raped, assaulted, etc. on a daily basis. What is the purpose of such laws if they cannot perform the sole purpose of protecting women. Lastly, the voyeur should also be seen as a patient and should be given medical assistance and if required should be put in rehabilitation. Also, the laws regarding voyeurism should be made gender neutral as privacy is a right of all.


[1] Jonathan M. Metzl, Survivor: a brief history of voyeurism (2004)

[2] Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (New York: W.W. Norton, 1945), pp. 71–5, 198–201, 491.

[3] Ibid., pp. 347–8.

[4]  [2007] EWCA Crim 2062

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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