What the Supreme Court's historic judgment says about 'sex with minor wife'

What the Supreme Court's historic judgment says about 'sex with minor wife'

What the Supreme Court's historic judgment says about 'sex with minor wife'

The Supreme Court today lashed out at the Centre for not criminalising sexual intercourse with a girl under 18 years of age even if the exploiter was her husband.

"The child protection laws already prohibit an adult having sex with someone below the age of 18, but this new law actually recognises there's a lot of child marriage in India and wanting to make that unacceptable".

The court had earlier observed that according to the prevailing law, if a man has physical intercourse with a girl under 15 years of age, it is termed as rape, irrespective of consent, and if she was below 18 years of age but more than 15 years and married, then no offence of rape is made out.

The Supreme Court has now ruled that this exception is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court held that the Exception should be read down as: "Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years, is not rape". The apex court further stated that the minor wife can lodge a complaint against her husband within one year. While taking child marriage head-on, the judges may have declined to look into the issue of marital rape, but in taking up this great social reform they have done signal service to society. The government estimates that child marriages in rural areas were three times higher than in urban centers.

The petitioner's arguments were based on constitutional rights that her rights under Article 14 (Right to Equality Under Law) and 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution of India were violated because of the discrepancy between the provisions to protect young girls.

The ruling was praised by rights advocates, who noted it coincided with International Day of the Girl Child on October 11.

This article has been adapted from its original source. It is also estimated that there are about 23 million child brides in India. It's up to every Indian to accept the negative connotations of child marriages and abandon it completely.

Referring to the issue, the top court said "exceptions in rape law is discriminatory, capricious and arbitrary". How does that not amount to a criminal offence? Until now, an exception to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines various circumstances of rape, protected men who engaged in sexual relations with women aged between 15 and 18, as long as they were married to them.

A groups of petitions challenging the marital exception to Section 375 in its entirety is now being heard by the Delhi high court.

In December 2015, MoS for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju had declared that the government is working on putting forward a "comprehensive" legislation that will criminalise marital rape. The Justice Verma Committee, which was set up following nationwide protests after the gangrape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey in December 2012, had also said, "The law ought to specify that marital or other relationship between the perpetrator or victim is not a valid defence against the crimes of rape or sexual violation".

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