Child mar­riage is sex­ual vi­o­la­tion: In­dia’s top court

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

New Delhi, In­dia - In­dia’s Supreme Court on Wed­nes­day ruled that the mar­riage of a child be­low 18 years is a vi­o­la­tion of the law and so any union would be con­sid­ered rape even if the cou­ple are mar­ried.

The age of con­sent and thus the le­gal age for girls to marry in In­dia is 18, but mil­lions of chil­dren are made to do so when they are much younger, par­tic­u­larly in poor ru­ral ar­eas.

In­dia’s rape laws specif­i­cally ex­clude mar­ried cou­ples, which his­tor­i­cally meant that even non­con­sen­sual sex with a mi­nor could not be classed as rape if it took place within mar­riage.

But the Supreme Court said that con­tra­dicted In­dia’s strict laws on the age of con­sent.

It ruled that po­lice should in fu­ture pros­e­cute cases of mar­i­tal rape if the vic­tim was un­der 18 and reg­is­tered a com­plaint within a year of the in­ci­dent.

Vikram Sri­vas­tava, a lawyer who pe­ti­tioned the court on the is­sue, wel­comed the rul­ing which he said would give child vic­tims some pro­tec­tion.

“The judg­ment 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.

“(Child mar­riage) is pro­hib­ited, but we all know the num­ber of chil­dren who are mar­ried be­low the age of 18 years.”

Many par­ents in In­dia marry off their chil­dren in the hope of im­prov­ing their fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity and to avoid the shame as­so­ci­ated with pre-mar­i­tal sex.

The re­sults can be dev­as­tat­ing, with girls drop­ping out of school to cook and clean for their hus­bands and suf­fer­ing health prob­lems from giv­ing birth at a young age.

Child mar­riage is pro­hib­ited, but we all know the num­ber of chil­dren who are mar­ried be­low the age of 18 years Vikram Sri­vas­tava


A file photo of In­dia’s Supreme Court build­ing in New Delhi

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