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

The Daily News Egypt - - International -

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.

Pro­tect­ing chil­dren

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.

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