Today is National Girl Child Day, an occasion celebrated nationwide through token politics or empowering propaganda accessible only to the few chosen ones. Ministry of Women and Child Development had launched this day to empower, educate and emancipate young girls. While this form of token politics involved nationwide efforts from all small and big organisations to have the biggest facade for female empowerment, we had at the same time, a horrendous judgement being passed in the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court. Any feat that might have been achieved in securing Child Protection under POCSO Law was given a huge blow. His Honour proclaimed that Groping a girl child without disrobing would not be a crime as per the definition of ‘Sexual Assault’ under Section 7 of the POCSO Act, 2012.
In a country where public display of affection between consenting adults makes the society uncomfortable, worried about what would happen to the morals of their children. This judgement did not garner the anger it should have amongst the highly respected elders of the society. They have the constant fear that western education, modernity and emancipation of any kind for women would end the glorious days of Bharat. These fears make one wonder Why are Men scared of female sexuality? Why are people uncomfortable with any expression of women’s sexual needs? The carnal act of sex is either to beneath them, as they are the Goddesses, recipients of respect and garlanded with higher moral ethics; or they are merely vehicles for men to seek pleasure. Why did the judge feel uncomfortable recognising that for women expression of sexuality necessarily is not same as men?
The child’s personal space was violated, that is not a question which is being denied today. The question which rocked POCSO act is whether sexual intent is defined by the action of the perpetrator or the mental state of the victim. To put simply, Can a man ever understand the mental state of a girl who was touched on her breasts without her consent? Another important question being raised here is whether the size and developed nature of the breast mattered in the deliberations of the particular case. Could it be that His Highness did not find the act adhering to the definition of Sexual Assault, simply, because the sexual maturity of the victim could not be established?
Ratna Kapoor is an extremely renowned Feminist author, whose research has largely looked at the State’s interaction with women. She has produced volumes of literature on how laws impact female identity and how laws view women. She points out that Indian Womanhood has been bounded in strict categories of chastity, heterosexuality, honour and self-sacrifice. The laws continue to view women, not as individual human beings but larger components of the unit of the family. If it was the familial ideology that formed the bedrock to understanding women and girl child by Law in India, how did a sexual offence against a child not garner more political outrage? Why is there an acceptance to continue to view women as mere vehicles for male pleasure? The answer remains simple, if female sexuality is not controlled behind locked doors how will patriarchy continue to exert itself.
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