The Kerala High Court on Thursday ruled that the act of manipulating a woman’s body to stimulate a sensation similar to penetration would constitute rape, Live Law reported.

The High Court made the statement while hearing an appeal by a man convicted of rape by a trial court in Ernakulam. The trial court had sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The prosecution had stated that the convict, a 40-year-old man named Santosh, had penetrated his penis between the girl’s thighs.

“We have no doubt in our mind that when the body of the victim is manipulated to hold the legs together for the purpose of simulating a sensation akin to penetration of an orifice, the offence of rape is attracted,” a division bench of Justices K Vinod Chandran and Ziyad Rahman AA said. “When penetration is thus made in between the thighs so held together, it certainly amount to rape as defined under Section 375.”

The High Court was dealing with the question of whether penetration to “any part of the body of such woman” under Section 375(c) of the Indian Penal Code includes a sexual act committed between thighs. Section 375 of the IPC deals with the definition of rape.

The court noted that the legal provision includes penetration to other parts of the body, and it is not confined to the vagina, urethra or anus.

The High Court confirmed Santosh’s rape conviction, but held him not guilty under sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, as the prosecution could not prove that the girl was a minor at the time of the assault. The judges said that the failure to obtain evidence about the girl’s age was a “serious lapse on the part of the prosecution”.

The case dates back to 2015, when the girl and her mother visited a medical camp in Ernakulam’s Thirumarady, and the girl complained of stomach pain, The News Minute reported. The girl told a doctor at the camp that a neighbour had sexually assaulted her.