How is Invasion of Privacy a Sexual Crime?

Last updated on May 11, 2022

[Trigger Warning: This explainer contains information on physical violence, sexual violence, abuse and slurs which some readers may find disturbing.]

Everyone has a right to privacy.(( Article 21, Constitution of India, 1950.)) This means that anyone can do anything, sexual or not, thinking that no one is watching them (provided that it shouldn’t be illegal). Under the law, only a man can be punished for the crime.

Being Watched by Someone

If a person tries to watch someone while they are doing any private act, which they would do only if they thought(( Section 354C, Indian Penal Code, 1860 [Commonly known as Voyeurism])) they were either completely alone or with a particular person they gave consent to, then it is a crime under the law. This crime is commonly known as voyeurism. Some examples are in cases where:

  • A person is being watched by someone when they are alone. For example, while they are using the toilet.(( State v. Shailesh, Delhi District Court, Criminal Appeal No.33/2016.))
  • Someone has illegally installed a camera in a person’s bedroom or hacked into their webcam to watch them in their private space.

Capturing Private Images 

If pictures, video or audio recordings of a person are without their permission, then it is a crime.

The punishment for capturing or watching someone without their knowledge or consent, is jail time of at least three years or a maximum of seven years along with a fine.(( Section 354C, Indian Penal Code, 1860 [Commonly known as Voyeurism].))

Distribution of Private Pictures and Videos(( Section 354C, Explanation II, Indian Penal Code, 1860; Section 67 of Information technology Act, 2000.)) 

No one can record or distribute private pictures or videos of a person, unless they give consent. For example, if a person gives consent to only recording a sexual act with their loved one but has not given permission to distribute it to other people, and that recording is distributed, then it is a crime.

The punishment for distribution of private pictures, images or audio is jail time of at least three years or a maximum of seven years along with a fine.1

  1. Section 354C, Indian Penal Code, 1860 [Commonly known as Voyeurism]. []

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