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.
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.
A court in India has ruled that groping a child through their clothing does not constitute sexual assault, drawing outrage across the country and frustrating campaigners battling to address widespread sexual abuse against women and children. https://t.co/2MKD3Ap9Ab— CNN (@CNN) January 26, 2021
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.
HELLO INDIA 😡 What is WRONG with you? Kids MUST BE PROTECTED and this would most certainly help 🤨 UGH, let me guess men are in charge?— Kerry de Voogd (@kerrydevoogd) January 26, 2021
“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.
There are literally no words for this. How many more years have to pass and how many more people have to become victims of sexual violence before this country finally does something effective to prevent it? Makes me furious!!!— Nat (@IfUDontKnow5SOS) January 26, 2021
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.
India is home to one of the oldest civilisation of human history. And yet...one of the most backwards for women and children's rights. How long will it take?— Shekyn (@shekynshakingit) January 26, 2021
“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?
I’m literally disgusted. Children are a vulnerable population who needs to be protected. And the laws are not in place to protect them, then they will continue to be sexually exploited and abused by a system who don’t care about their rights. Noone has the right to violate them!— Dr. Takila Simmons (@DrTakilaSimmons) January 26, 2021