The Indecent Representation Of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 (No. 60 Of 1986)

The Indecent Representation Of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 (No. 60 Of 1986)



This Blog is written by Wafiya Tunnisa from Middlesex University, Dubai.  Edited by Ritika Sharma.



In this millennial era, where more than 90% of the time of a person is spent on social media and electronic devices, it is has become very easy for every citizen of this country to practice freedom of expression and freedom of placing their views and ideas in front of the world without any restriction. Whilst this ideology, like everything else there have been good and bad impacts on each one’s life. The influence of mass media has risen significantly with the advent of modern communication technologies in the electronic world. Newspapers, movies, magazines, cable and satellite newspapers have expanded exponentially across the world. Today, mass media influence our very lives, our opinion, our knowledge, our attitudes, our expectations and our social realities which in one way affects every aspect of the social lives. Media plays an important role in life-giving people. From the moment we get up, we’re submerged in a media-centric culture. Our day begins with a newspaper in our hand and the last thing before retiring to bed is a glance at the latest news. As we see the growth of the mass media, there is has been a lot of commercializing of all the news and content which basically involves violence, the portrayal of women as an indecent object, putting women down in every possible way possible, and sex. It appears to minimize the legitimate area for the care of gender Issues of importance essential to the growth and advancement of women in society.


When looked into religious aspects of all religions and culture, women are meant to be given full protection and extended respect throughout her life. Women are considered a sacred part of a family in some cultures while at the same time some women are taken for granted and objectified very easily. It begins from a small household where women are considered homemakers and not money earners of a family. This tradition has been coming along our lives for centuries. But the mistreatment of women does not stop there. It extends to women being victims of objectifying, vulgar, indecent depiction in many fields. There was a time in history when men would play the roles of women in the videography industry as women wouldn’t want to expose them, this is just one reason which is backed by family considering working women as an omen and useless prospect for the women. Public/private distinction assumes credence in common communication theorizing and is also split into the study of human communication, emphasizing aspects of male / female sexuality, gender stereotypes, role-playing, bonding, body appearance, sensitivity and social engagement, listening styles, awareness processes, self-concept and personality, and mass communication-related concerns.

When we look into the recent era, the media has evolved in many no responsible ways, especially with regards to women. Women have been represented in a very indecent way. Women have been exploited in many secretive ways and sometimes in public also. There is a systematic overdoing of nudity and vulgarity that’s been portrayed in the industry. Women and their interests or issues are no longer evident in mainstream media, there is now a rise in women’s commercialization in mass is more like women are treated as a good to advertise to sell any filthy product and used as a good promote themselves and most of the times women are the product being sold.

Another issue that connects this issue is nowadays, gender inequality or poor infrastructure of the society, or even indecent acts are not being discussed in the news and media. Rather the media looks into the lives of huge stars and illogical news has been portrayed all over the news channels and papers.

The Indian cinema industry is one of the main industries that look into this type of picturing women in an indecent way. The rapid rise of vulgarity in Bollywood cinema poses a challenge to the core of Indian culture and it’s a cultural one. If caution is not taken imminently, and if civilization is too at risk, the law will disrupt the Indians Civilization forever by bringing death to our eternally youthful society and ethos by opening the floodgates of fornication and sexual immorality. Poverty, ignorance, and lack of essential necessities of life And the ever-increasing burden of transformation from tradition to modernity – all compounded to intensify the disparities that women in developed countries, including India, are experiencing to the point that their life is reduced to a constant fight for survival.


India has already ratified the Various international treaties and human rights mechanisms are dedicated to securing fair rights for women. The secret to this is the adoption of the Convention on the Abolition of All Kinds of Violence against Women (CEDAW) in 1993. The Indian Penal Code has mentioned in many laws regarding the method to curb the idea of obscenity, some of the sections are 292, 293 and 294 of IPC. Now, when it comes to defining vulgarity or for that matter obscenity, it may differ from person to person and may be considered a subjective matter. However, it may be considered difficult to define these words as they are linked to the values of each society. The measure of vulgarity is if the propensity of the matter, threatened with obscenity, is to deprave and corrupt anyone whose minds are open to such unethical factors and whose arms the release of this kind may fall.

Obscenity deals with the selling, recruiting, production, distribution, public showing, circulation, manufacture, export or publicity, etc. of any material that is indecent. What is crucial is the need to protect communities from the possible damage that could result from obscene content and to ensure respect for freedom of speech, which must be balanced by the free exchange of ideas.

Even with all these provisions made, there are still increasing indecent depictions of women or comparisons to women’s magazines, especially in ads and newspaper fliers that have the effect of being disrespectful to women. While there might be no clear purpose of such advertising, magazines, etc. to have the impact of depraving or perverting people. The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act of 1986 was thus passed.

The Act shall be described as “An Act banning the indecent portrayal of women by means of advertising or in publications, writings, drawings, images or in some other manner and in matters relating thereto or incidental thereto.” The term indecent shall denote the portrayal, in any manner, of the figure of a woman, of her type or body or of any portion thereof, in such a way as to have the effect of being obscene, or of being indecent.

The Act punishes the indecent representation of women, i.e. the portrayal, in some manner, of the appearance or figure of a woman; its shape or body or any part thereof, in such a manner as to have the consequence of being indecent or degrading or degrading to, or likely to deprave, corrupt or damage popular ethics or morals. Yet ads showing women in an indecent manner are broadcast day by day and not any action is taken. The National Women’s Commission (NCW) has recommended changes to the Act and points out ways to improve it and make it work so that the goals can be accomplished.

The Indian constitution provides freedom for women and also lays down special provisions encouraging the State to take constructive discrimination steps in favor of women in order to neutralize the combined socio-economic, educational, and political disadvantages they face. Basic rights, inter alia, guarantee equality before the law and equal protection of the law; forbids prejudice against another person on basis of religion, ethnicity, caste, sex or place of birth and Ensure equality of opportunities for all people Matters surrounding jobs. Articles 14, 15, 15(3), 16, 39(a), 39(b), 39(c) and 42 of the Constitution relevant value in this respect.

The amendment introduced by the National Commission for Women proposes to amend the meaning of advertising and ads by including any note, circular, mark, poster, wrapper, or other paper which also includes visible representation rendered by means of laser light, vibration, haze, petrol, fiber, optical-electronic or some other media. It states that no individual shall manufacture, sell, employ, distribute, circulate, or mail any book or any other means of depiction or depiction containing an obscene representation of women in anyone. The Commission has also recommended adding the word “derogatory” along with “indecent. “which shows the level of absurdity it wants to show.


When we look at Section 6 which discusses the penalty, there are phrases that would be needed to be edited in order to show the public how bad of a punishment you might be convicted of if you involve yourself in such indecent actives. The first sentence that talks about the penalty say that ‘a fine that extends to two thousand rupees’, this very sentence does not show the dep’t of the issue and does not allow this crime to look like a very big offense, as the fine is very easy to pay off. Two thousand rupees in this modern age has become equal to 100 rupees back in the day. The sentence should be changed into ‘fine up to fifty thousand or even one lakh rupees may extent’. Another sentence in Sec 6 is ‘in event of a second conviction with imprisonment for a term of no less than six months.’ This sentence may change into ‘conviction may extend up to five years and worse instances 10 years.’


There are a number of ads and editors that have faced a mix of charges. To begin with: in the Kamasutra ad, Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre faced charges. Another instance would be when charges were raised against the editor of Anandabazar Patrika, Aveek Sarkar along with the publisher in Kolkata. They were charged in relation to the production of nude photographs of former tennis player names Boris Becker and his fiancée in the sports magazine, which was published by the above-mentioned group in 1993.

When looking at the statistics and numbers, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. It can be claimed that a decrease of cases of indecent representation of women has likely decreased by 46.5% which in particular looks like 2,917 cases in 2005 to 1,565 cases in 2006.


Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra: in this landmark judgment and case, a bookshop was charged under the IPC for the sale of an unfinished and expurgated version of “Lady Chatterley ‘s Lover,”

The case lays down and looks according to what had come to pass as the “test of obscenity.” It says that obscenity must not be measured by a phrase, here a passage. Job as a whole has to be looked at and seen how it impacts culture as a whole, the audience as a whole. In the words of the court said,

“Where obscenity and art are mixed together, art must be so preponderant as to cast obscenity into obscenity’’.

Shadow or obscenity is so meaningless and irrelevant that it may have little effect and can be dismissed. It is important to maintain a balance between ‘freedom of speech and ‘proper expression’ and ‘public goodness and good morals; but where the latter is significantly abused, the former must give way.’


We cannot be passive witnesses of the indecent portrayal of women. It is our responsibility to acknowledge the practices that are undermining the very core of Indian civilization and its history. The Media Agent alarm policymakers to pay serious help to gender-related matters, including the unfavorable sex ratio, infant and maternal mortality, crime against women, gender violence, acid attack, dowry-related problems, problems of the girl child, women labor problems, effects of poverty on women and their families. Unfortunately, this coverage is much smaller than the room occupied by cinema, actors, models, etc. Commercials, glamor, makeup aids, cookery and design. The fight for a balanced and fair representation of women The fourth state has an ethical responsibility in the media.

A fresh, creative, respectable portrayal of women, focused on Indian culture and community in the media, needs to be adopted. A strong legislative initiative, along with a universal social understanding of morals and ethics, is required to combat this danger, so that women are not viewed as objects, but as people with rights and dignity.













(1) RANJIT D. UDESHI v. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA (drew a difference between obscenity and pornography).

Journals & Books

(1) Sujata Mittal ,Children and media.2005Isha books, Delhi. P.270.

(2) Grameme Burton, Media and society, critical perspectives. p.129 2nd.Ed .2010 Tata McGraw Hill Education Pvt. Limited.

(3) Justice M. Rama Jois. Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt.Ltd. New Delhi. 2004 p. 30.

(4) Mamta Rao. Law relating to Women and child. (2012 ) 3rd. Ed. Eastern Book Co. .Lucknow. p. 223.

(5) Kiran Prasad, Women, media and society: Recasting communication policy. In Women and media, Challenging feminist discourse.(2005) The Women Press Delhi. p. 4-5

(6) Illa Patel, Representation of women in mass media. P.1 Paper submitted in encyclopedia of 3rd. World Women. New York, Garland Publishing.

(7)Nivedita Menon, Gender and politics in India. 2012 Oxford university press. N.Delhi. p.22.

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