This week we discuss the decision recently overturned by the Supreme Court of India regarding the need for skin on skin contact for sexual abuse to be established.
Child sexual abuse is a major problem in India with thousands of cases reported each year. Some research suggests that sexual abuse was as high as 53% of children surveyed.
The background of the case in question was that a 12 year old girl was groped over clothing by a 39 year old man who touched her breasts and tried to remove her trouser bottoms.
The Mumbai High Court Judge ruled as there was no skin on skin contact when touching the child’s breasts, the case would fail for sexual assault and would only result in a lesser charge of molestation.
This understandably outraged many people who called for a review of the decision. It was rightly argued at appeal that skin on skin contact should not be necessary for sexual assault to be established.
The decision would have set a dangerous precedent and perhaps discouraged others from reporting sexual abuse.
The Supreme Court bench said that the sexual intent must be considered not whether there was skin to skin contact and the previous decision had “insensitively legitimised sexual behaviour”.