(CMR) The ruling of a judge in India that the groping of a child through their clothes, without skin-to-skin contact, was not sexual assault has drawn outrage across the country.
Last week, Bombay High Court judge Pushpa Ganediwala ruled that a 39-year-old man was not guilty of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl because he had not removed her clothes.
This judgment was devastating news for the many women and children who have had to deal with widespread sexual abuse.
Reports are that the man brought the child to his house, where he sexually assaulted her. While there, he touched her chest and tried to remove her underwear.
He was found guilty of sexual assault and sentenced to three years in prison in a lower court but filed an appeal to the High Court.
Last week, Justice Ganediwala said the man's action did not fall in the definition of ‘sexual assault,'” which carries a minimum three-year prison term.
“Considering the stringent nature of punishment provided for the offense, in the opinion of this court, stricter proof and serious allegations are required,” she wrote.
Justice Ganediwala acquitted the accused of sexual assault but convicted him on the lesser charge of molestation and sentenced him to one year in prison.
This ruling has drawn widespread criticism from activists across the country.
The National Commission for Women said they would challenge the judgment made in the high court. The group tweeted,
“The judgment will not only have a cascading effect on various provisions involving safety and security of women in general but also put all the women under ridicule and has trivialized the legal provisions provided by the legislature for the safety and security of women.”
India's Protection of Children From Sexual Offenses Act 2012 does not explicitly state that skin-on-skin contact is needed to constitute the crime of sexual assault.