The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court in India has observed in a particular case that groping a child’s breast without 'skin-to-skin contact' does not amount to the offence of 'sexual assault' under Section 8 of the country’s child protection law - the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
IPPF notes with grave concern that the judgment is deeply flawed in its understanding of child sexual abuse and fails to take into account the power hierarchy when an adult person abuses his/her authority over a child/minor.
IPPF works with survivors of violence and fully understands the effect child sexual abuse has on the physical, mental and emotional health of the survivors.
Amritananda Chakravorty, a Delhi-based lawyer said:
"The definition of 'sexual assault' under POCSO is a comprehensive one that includes acts of touching breast with sexual intent, and there is no requirement of any "skin to skin" contact, as held by the Bombay High Court. Just because the punishment is stringent does not mean that the judiciary would insert elements in the offence that are not there. It is bizarre to say that sexual misconduct with a 12-year-old child would not be an offence under POCSO merely because she was clothed."
IPPF clearly states that any attempt to dilute the statutory regime of POCSO would be hugely detrimental to the child rights and a narrow interpretation of what constitutes sexual assault would harm years of work done by child right’s and women’s rights groups in the country. IPPF hopes that this egregious decision would be overturned by the higher courts by keeping the rights of the children at the centre of any discourse on child sexual abuse.
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