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India: Showing Middle Finger to a Woman Can Drag You to Jail

Middle Finger
Middle Finger

A case of attack from 2014 has commenced to a ruling by a Delhi court that showing your middle finger is a punishable offense, with jail time and a fine. The case came up when the accuser claimed that the man, brother-in-law of woman, had shown her the finger, along with passing vulgar comments and also slapping her.

After a trial of approximately 5 years, the man was accused under Section 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code.

The action of the man identified as Vasundhara Azad, the metropolitan magistrate, “undeniably amounts to making utterances or gestures intending to insult the modesty of a woman.” According to reports, the man could be facing a maximum punishment of up to 3 years in jail, along with a fine.

In May 2014, the accuser filed charges against her brother-in-law, but the latter denied all allegations and claimed trial. Further, the man asserted the woman charged him over a property dispute. His sister also claimed that the complaint was a false one. However, the court found that there’s no reason to disbelieve the accuser. 

Azad said, “It is quality, not quantity or number of witnesses, that matters.” “[The] accused stands convicted.”

Giving the middle finger in India has landed Indian men in trouble before. In 2017, for example, a 21-year-old man was arrested in New Delhi for showing the finger to a woman while driving. He was immediately accused under Section 509. Then again in 2018, a man was arrested for showing a female co-worker the middle finger. Also, in 2017, WhatsApp was taken to court for introducing the “lewd” middle finger emoji.

It is important to note that the law is gender-specific, i.e., the same rule would not apply if a woman showed the finger. There are also debates on how laws on obscenity across the world do not make sense in the present world, and hence violate the freedom of speech while wasting judicial resources. For now, though, India’s obscenity laws pretty much exist in the grey area, which is even leading to a crackdown on our entertainment.

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