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emfizz.com October 17, 2017


Marital rape: India criminalises sexual intercourse by husband with wife below 18

13 October 2017, 12:57 | Terri Saunders

Sex with wife below 18 years of age is rape, rules Supreme Court

India's supreme court has finally ruled that having sex with an underage wife counts as rape

The husband is liable to be prosecuted if the woman files a complaint within a year of the sexual act, the Supreme Court said as it struck down the exception. "If a man has sexual intercourse with a wife who is below 18 years, it is an offense". NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

"Civil society can do so much for preventing such child marriages but eventually it is for the government of India and the state governments to take proactive steps to prevent child marriages", the bench said. The girl's family, often poor, can view it as lifting an economic burden. This was rejected by the court, which held "there is no question of a girl child giving express or implied consent for sexual intercourse" based on the statutory age of consent.

Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India, said the verdict was a timely step in the right direction for the discourse on marital rape.

The SC has now criminalised sex between a man and his minor wife.

Prabhat Kumar of the Save The Children, also part of the consultation, said that the judgement is welcome. In its attempt to protect status quo, Parliament has chosen not to increase the age of consent in case of a married girl from 15 to 18 years thereby impinging on the Fundamental Rights of the girl child. Wednesday's judgment closed that loophole.

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India's supreme court has closed a legal loophole that allowed men to have sex - even forcibly - with a woman under 18 if she was his wife. Any distinction, the court said, was arbitrary and discriminatory and not in the best interests of the girl child. By reading down the exception to limit it to girls aged 18 and older, the court has sought to harmonise the various laws in which any person under 18 is a minor. The government estimates that child marriages in rural areas were three times higher than in urban centres.

KUMARI: They go and attend these marriages. They say they can't annoy the communities, they can't annoy the people - this is a practice they have to participate in. The judges draw extensively on studies that demonstrate child marriage is a social evil that adversely affects the physical and mental health of children, denies them opportunities for education and self-advancement, infringes on their bodily autonomy and deprives them of any role in deciding on many aspects of their lives.

MCCARTHY: The court was unsparing as it declared sex with a child bride to be rape. It even took the plea that with marriage, the girl child consents for sexual intercourse as well.

"This is a landmark judgment that corrects a historical wrong against girls", said Vikram Srivastava, the founder of Independent Thought and one of the main petitioners in the case.

Early marriage is deeply woven into the traditions of many Indian communities, though the "gauna" ceremony, where the wedding in consummated, is usually delayed until the girl reaches puberty.



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