A judge in India has ruled 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.
The man, named only as Satish in court documents, lured the youngster to his home in the Nagpur district in 2016, where he groped her chest and tried to remove her clothes.
The girl’s mother found the distraught child at his home and informed police, with Satish then sentenced to three years for the crime.
But after an appeal to the Bombay High Court, it was ruled the act did not constitute a sexual assault.
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 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 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.
It 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, as the country battles an ongoing rape crisis.
Activists have been campaigning for decades for harsher laws and law enforcement against rapists.
The crisis reached boiling point following the horrific gang rape, and subsequent death, of student Jyoti Singh.
The 23-year-old and a male friend were horrifically beaten, with Jyoti gang-raped and penetrated with metal poles leaving horrific and fatal internal injuries after boarding a bus in New Delhi in 2012.
A raft of new laws were bought in to protect Indian women and children as officials were forced to face the horrific reality of sex crimes in the sprawling Asian country.
But as of 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.
Police were also frequently unwilling to register their complaints and victims and witnesses received little protection.
Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia director told Sun Online: “The laws were strengthened following public protests after the 2012 gang rape”.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission