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Court Rules That Groping A Child Without Removing Their Clothes Is Not Sexual Assault

Court Rules That Groping A Child Without Removing Their Clothes Is Not Sexual Assault

It was ruled that a 39-year-old man was not guilty of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl since he had not removed her clothes, indicating there was no skin-on-skin contact.

Image Source: Getty Images/Lin Shao-hua

Trigger Warning: This article contains incidents of sexual assault that readers may find disturbing.

A court in India has infuriated people all over the world by stating that groping a child over their clothes does not constitute sexual assault. This comes as a hard blow to advocates in the country who have been doing everything in their power to raise awareness against the crimes, especially in a country like India where women's safety is a joke. According to 7 News, Bombay High Court judge Pushpa Ganediwala, in a judgment last week, ruled that a 39-year-old man was not guilty of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl since he had not removed her clothes, indicating there was no skin-on-skin contact.



 

Court documents indicate that this incident took place in 2016 when the man took the girl home on the pretext of giving her a fruit, but he abused her by groping her chest and trying to take her underwear off. The man was found guilty of his crimes back then and was even sentenced to three years in prison in a lower court. However, he appealed to a high court, and on January 19, Justice Ganediwala affirmed that his act “would not fall in the definition of ‘sexual assault,’” as it carries a minimum three-year prison term which can be extended to five years.



 

 

“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 him of sexual assault charges but convicted him on molestation charges which are not as grave and it only sentences him to one year in prison. “It is the basic principle of criminal jurisprudence that the punishment for an offense shall be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime,” she said. Basically, India’s Protection of Children From Sexual Offenses Act 2012 doesn't particularly mention that skin-on-skin contact is needed to constitute the crime of sexual assault.



 

 

The decision, especially since it came from a woman herself, sparked outrage all over the country, especially now, given that other lower courts will have to follow Bombay High Court's decision. The National Commission for Women said they have planned to mount a legal challenge to the judgment, which it said will have a “cascading effect on various provisions involving safety and security of women.” Karuna Nundy, a lawyer at the Supreme court of India -the country's top tier court- stated that judges who passed judgments that were “completely contrary to established law” and called for basic rights to be retrained.



 

 

“Judgments like this contribute to impunity in crimes against girls,” she tweeted. Ranjana Kumari, the director of the non-profit Centre for Social Research, which advocates for women’s rights in India, said the judgment is “shameful, outrageous, shocking and devoid of judicial prudence.” Even in the 21st century, sexual assault is a big issue, with statistics from 2018 pointing out that every 16 minutes, a rape case is reported, according to CNN. Unlike other countries, is rape such an issue in India because sex is considered taboo, both before and after marriage? 



 

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