India’s Court Says Groping a Child Isn’t Sexual Assault If There’s No ‘Skin-To-Skin Contact’

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A 39-year-old man will face a lesser charge for groping a 12-year-old’s breast after the Indian high court judge affirmed there must be “skin to skin contact with sexual intent” for the act to be considered sexual assault.

The details: Justice Pushpa Ganediwala of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court said groping does not fall under the definition of sexual assault in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act during the ruling on Jan. 19, according to NDTV.

  • The man, identified as Satish, invited the 12-year-old girl to his house to give her guava in December 2016, according to the court documents via CNN. While inside his home, the man allegedly touched the girl’s breast over her clothes and attempted to remove her underwear.
  • The suspect was initially sentenced to a minimum of three years imprisonment under the POCSO Act in a lower court. However, the high court argued that since there was no skin-to-skin contact when the groping occurred, Satish will be charged under IPC section 354 instead, which carries a minimum sentence of one-year imprisonment.
  • “Considering the stringent nature of punishment provided for the offence (under POCSO), in the opinion of this court, stricter proof and serious allegations are required,” the high court said in a statement. “The act of pressing of breast of the child aged 12 years, in the absence of any specific detail as to whether the top was removed or whether he inserted his hand inside the top and pressed her breast, would not fall in the definition of sexual assault.”
  • The POCSO Act is defined as: “Whoever, with sexual intent touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the child or makes the child touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of such person or any other person, or does any other act with sexual intent which involves physical contact without penetration is said to commit sexual assault.”

Outrage: The high court decision ignited outrage among social media users as other high courts and lower courts in the country will now have to follow the proceeding.

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  • In a tweet, the National Commission for Women said they are planning to challenge the high court’s decision.

  • Karuna Nundy, a lawyer at the Supreme Court of India, called for retraining and temporary suspension of the judges “who pass judgments completely contrary to established law.”

  • Ranjana Kumari, director of Center for Social Research, a nonprofit that advocates for women’s rights in the country, describes the decision as “shameful, outrageous, shocking and devoid of judicial prudence.”

Feature Image via Getty

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