Sex with wife below 18 years is rape, says Supreme Court

13 October, 2017, 00:55 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • Supreme Court on Wednesday said the exception in the rape law was unconstitutional

Wednesday's landmark decision, which coincided with International Day of the Girl Child, also raised the age of consent for all women to 18. "It was found that at the time of carrying out the survey in 2014, amongst women in the age group of 20-24 years, nearly 26.8 percent women were married before they attained the age of 18 years, i.e. more than one out of four marriages was of a girl child", he said.

Justice Lokur said the exception has no rational nexus with the objective sought to be achieved by the different statutes.

Justice Gupta wrote a separate but concurrent verdict.

Holding this distinction was also "contrary to the philosophy behind some statutes, the bodily integrity of the girl child and her reproductive choice", he said it also "turns a blind eye to trafficking of the girl child and surely each one of us must discourage trafficking which is such a awful social evil".

VIKRAM SRIVASTAVA: A message has been given to them that if you want to marry a young girl, you are now not protected.

The Union government had submitted in court that child marriage is a reality in India, the nation has 23 million child brides and criminalising the consummation of marriages as rape would not be appropriate.

India has the highest number of child brides in the world, with 47 percent of girls getting married off by the time they are 18, the organization Girls Not Brides reported.

India's supreme court has struck down a law allowing men to have sex with a child as young as 15 provided the pair were married.

A plea filed by an NGO, Independent Thought, has brought in a much anticipated change in the Indian rape law as Supreme Court of India has made marital sex with a minor (under 18 years of age) illegal.

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Poverty, weak law enforcement, patriarchal norms and concern about family honor are factors contributing to early marriage. The age of consent is also 18 under POCSO.

It asked the Centre and the states to take proactive steps to prohibit child marriage across the country.

Yet, as the order has recognised marital rape in the instance of married women in the age group of 15 to 18, it led to speculation that this could be the precursor to the recognition of marital rape.

According to UNICEF, around one in four married Indian girls and women between the ages of 15-19 have suffered physical abuse at the hands of their husband.

Prabhat Kumar of the Save The Children, also part of the consultation, said that the judgement is welcome. "This is part of their right to liberty and dignity", said Kothari.

But there are fewer taking place now.

"This positive decision by the Supreme Court will hopefully encourage the Indian government to protect all women by removing the marital rape exemption in all cases".

KUMARI: They go and attend these marriages. It's a very toothless law but the criminal sanctions are strong.

The petitioner had also argued that the fact that age of consent is 18 years is indicative of the fact that Parliament considers girls below the age of 18 years as incapable of giving consent for sex. The numbers (of child marriages) will come down.

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