Letís call it hate speech
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Speech about women is judged within a matrix of obscenity and censorship rather than being recognised as hate speech. Under Article 19 of the Constitution, the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression does not extend to incitement to commit an offence. Hate speech ó any form of communication which vilifies a person or group based on their identity, and incites violence or prejudice against them ó ought to be outside the protection of Article 19.
The law does not meet this standard when it comes to women. Gender-based hate speech is not an offence under the Indian Penal Code. At most, Section 505 punishes statements or rumours that are likely to incite any class or community of people to commit an offence against any other class or community of persons. Similarly, making statements or spreading rumours which cause fear or alarm in any section of the public is an offence.
Section 153-A, which directly addresses hate speech, criminalises speech that promotes feelings of hatred, enmity or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community. The section also recognises drills, exercises and movements where the participants are likely to use criminal force or violence against any religious, racial, language or regional group, or caste or community, and where this drill/ exercise/ movement would, for any reason whatsoever, cause or be likely to cause fear, alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of this group, caste or community.
Section 153-B speaks directly to citizenship. It criminalises speech that propagates that any class of persons, because they belong to a particular religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community, be denied or deprived of their rights as citizens of India.
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