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.
In a judgment last week, Bombay High Court judge Pushpa Ganediwala found that a 39-year-old man was not guilty of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl as he had not removed her clothes, meaning there was no skin-on-skin contact. According to court documents, the man brought the child to his house on the pretext of giving her guava in December 2016. While there, he touched her chest and tried to remove her underwear, according to the judgment.
He was found guilty of sexual assault and sentenced to three years in prison in a lower court, but then appealed to the High Court. In her judgment on January 19, Justice Ganediwala found that his act "would not fall in the definition of 'sexual assault,'" which carries a minimum three year prison term which can be extended to five years.