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Govt. mulls norms tweak on women's portrayal in digital media

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NEW DELHI: The Indian government is proposing to amend relevant laws relating to representation of women in mass media with a view to make the law contemporary and keep pace with changing technologies like OTT and other digital services.

The India government had enacted the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA), 1986 to prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisements, publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner. Since the enactment of the Act, technological evolution has resulted in the development of new forms of communication, such as internet, multi-media messaging, cable television, over-the-top (OTT) services and applications like Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Chat On, Snapchat and Instagram.

According to a statement put out by the government, technological advancements has necessitated widening the scope of the law so as to cover all forms of media. The proposal to amend the Act was introduced in Parliament in 2012, which referred the issue to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has proposed amendments to widen the scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA), 1986 keeping in mind the recent technological advancement in the field of communications.

Based on the observations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee and recommendation made by the National Commission for Women and wide consultations with civil society groups, the following amendments have been recommended, amongst other things, by the ministry:

Amendment in definition of term advertisement to include digital form or electronic form or hoardings, or through SMS and MMS.

Amendment in definition of distribution to include publication, license or uploading using computer resource or communication device.

Penalty similar to that provided under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Creation of a centralized authority under the National Commission of Women (NCW). This body will have representatives from Advertising Standards Council of India, Press Council of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and one member having experience of working on women issues.

This centralized body will be authorized to receive complaints or grievances regarding any programme or advertisement broadcast or published and investigate/examine all matters relating to the indecent representation of women.

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