India’s top court says sex with child bride is rape
India’s top court has ruled that intercourse with a minor wife is illegal.There are an estimated 23 million child brides in India
DW—India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that sex with any minor—including within a marriage—is rape.
The landmark ruling closes a legal loophole that had protected men from legal punishment if their wife was under 18 years old.
“The minor wife can complain against the husband within one year,” the Supreme Court said, according to NDTV. “Exception in rape law is discriminatory, capricious and arbitrary ... It violates bodily integrity of the girl child.”
Sex with or without the consent of a girl under 18-years-old is a crime. However, millions of young girls are married away, especially in poor rural areas.
The ruling overturns a provision in the penal code that allowed sex with a girl over 15 years old if the couple was married.That penal code provision was in violation of laws establishing the legal age of marriage at 18 for women.
The court did not rule on a separate legal case on marital rape for adults.
Vikram Srivastava, a lawyer with the NGO Independent Thought that brought the case before the court, said the ruling would protect children.
“The judgement today in two lines says that if anyone now marries a girl child below the age of 18 years and if the girl complains within a year of sexual intercourse, then that person can be prosecuted for rape,” he said in comments run by NDTV. “(Child marriage) is prohibited,but we all know the number of children who are married below the age of 18 years.”
The government has opposed criminalizing marital rape, arguing it would damage the institution of marriage.
It was also opposed to criminalizing sex with a minor wife, saying that child marriage was a reality in India given uneven economic and educational development.
The government estimates that there are currently 23 million child brides in India and that 46 percent of women aged 18 to 29 had been married before the age of 18.
“Hence, criminalising the consummation of a marriage with such a serious offence such as rape would not be appropriate and practical,” the government argued, according the Times of India.