Prominent Indian Catholics have praised the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to overrule a a state court order on child sexual assault this week.
On 19th January, the Bombay High Court acquitted a man accused of assaulting a 12-year-old girl in Maharashtra state. The man, who is alleged to have touched the girl’s breast, was judged innocent of sexual assault as he had not removed her top. His action did not qualify as sexual assault as there had been no skin-to-skin contact. The court, however, did rule that it could be defined as “outraging the modesty” of a woman under Section 354 of India’s Penal Code.
Speaking to UCA News, Sister Lizy Thomas, critiqued the ruling and called for greater rigour in the decision-making process.
“When sexual assaults against children and women are on the rise, courts will have to be vigilant in their orders. A minor fault in them can boomerang,” she said.
The activist nun who campaigns to raise awareness of POCSO, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, went on to praise the Supreme Court for “sending out a right message” on sexual assault.
India’s Attorney General K.K. Venugopal called the Bombay High Court’s order “a very disturbing conclusion” and a “dangerous precedent” in his plea for a stay of the ruling.
Former spokesman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India echoed Sister Thomas’s sentiments when speaking to UCA News yesterday.
“The high court order has betrayed the respect for women,” he said, “court orders should be aimed at strengthening and promoting dignity and respect for women.”
“The Supreme Court’s order is in the right perspective, particularly when violations against women and children are increasing,” he said.
As of 31st December 2019, there are over 240,000 pending cases of sexual assault against children. To tackle this, the government has approved the creation of 1,023 special courts to fast-track the trials.
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