Campaigners set sights on marital rape after India child bride ruling

Supreme Court

The landmark ruling closes a legal loophole that had protected men from legal punishment if their wife was under 18 years old. It is considered as domestic violence and sexual abuse.

This coming on International Girl Child Day is just the cherry on the cake.

However the government, responding to a plea filed before the apex court by the NGO Independent Thought, defended the Section 375 exception in the Supreme Court in August.

Blogger Tina Acharya, who keeps a watch on social issues, while reacting to the Supreme Court verdict said, "This is so ambiguous".

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

"This conflict or incongruity needs to be resolved in the best interest of the girl child and the provisions of various complementary statutes need to be harmonised and read purposively to present an articulate whole", Justice Madan B Lokur said.

"Merely because child marriages have been performed in different parts of the country as a part of a tradition or custom does not necessarily mean that the tradition is an acceptable one nor should it be sanctified as such".


Since the law on child marriage, the Child Marriage Prohibition Act 2006 remains the way it is, it also means that any under-age marriage that has taken place remains valid and voidable.

"When a girl is compelled to marry before she attains the age of 18 years, her health is put in serious jeopardy", the judge said, while referring to various reports on the effects of child marriages across India.

The court also asserted that the age of consent was 18 and that could nothe court which had earlier stated that it would not like to venture into the domain of marital rape has criminalised sexual relations between a man and his minor wife.

"Surely, the Union of India can not be oblivious to the existence of the trauma faced by a girl child who is married between 15 and 18 years of age or to the three pro-child statutes and other human rights obligations".

But its criminal code had included an exception for married couples, in a country where around 46% of women aged between 18 and 29 were married before reaching legal adulthood.

India's government has called the issue of its 23 million teenage brides "an obstacle to almost every developmental goal: eradicating poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality; protecting children's lives; and improving women's health".

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