A judge in India is currently facing criticism after she ruled that molesting a child through their clothes does not count as a sex crime.
Judge Pushpa Ganediwala overturned a 39-year-old man’s conviction for sexual assault at the Bombay High Court after he touched the breast of a 12-year-old child through her top.
According to court papers, the man named as ‘Satish’ lured the youngster to his home in the Nagpur district in 2016, where he groped her chest ‘through her clothes’ and tried to remove her clothes.
The girl’s mother found the 12-year-old at his home and informed police, he was then sentenced to three years for the crime.
But Satish appealed and in a judgement at Bombay’s High Court last week, judge Pushpa Ganediwala ruled that there must be ‘skin on skin’ contact to prove a sexual assault has taken place.
The ruling said: “It is not the prosecution case that the accused removed her top and pressed her breast.
“As such, there is no direct physical contact i.e. skin-to-skin with sexual intent without penetration.
“The act of pressing breast of a 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 her top and pressed her breast, would not fall under the definition of sexual assault.”
He was instead charged with “insulting a woman’s modesty,” which carries a one year of prison time.
The ruling sparked a furious backlash online, with one social media user tweeting: “Disgusting to hear what a female judge said about an adult male groping a minor girl in India. No doubt India is one of the worst countries for women.”
Another tweeter added: “This ruling was given by a female judge. That’s all we need to know about India and the plight of its female victims.”
In 2012, India’s Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act was passed and defines sexual assault as forcing a child to touch the genitals of an adult, or an adult touching a child’s genitals.
The ruling could set a dangerous precedent for India, a country that has a huge amount of rape cases reported daily.
As at 2017, the number of attacks had increased to more than 34,000 with an estimated six rapes taking place per day.
In the same year, a report by Human Rights Watch said survivors of sex crimes often suffered humiliation at police stations and hospitals.