Sex with Wife below the Age of 18 is Rape: Supreme Court

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that a man will be punished if he is found to be guilty of having sex with his minor wife. This historical order fixes the age of having sex for girls at 18 with consent for all the girls. “If a minor wife complaints of forced sexual intercourse within a year of marriage, police needs to take action,” the court said while hearing the petition for disputing over the provision in the rape law, which allowed a man to have sex with his underage wife even without her permission.

This order came at a time when the court is hearing the petitions supporting for marital rape to be declared a crime. While addressing the concerns of the government, the court said that the judgment would have a potential effect and have no bearing on marriages already performed. The government in defending the rape law exception told the court during an earlier hearing that India had 23 million child brides and criminalizing the “consummation of the marriages” as rape would not be correct. In India, notably, rape and child marriage laws differed on the age of consent. According to the Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code says that sex with a minor (Under 18) is rape but it had an exception, which allowed a man to have sex with his underage wife, 15 or above, even without her approval.

Opposing the exception, an NGO named as ‘Independent Thought’ had told the court regarding the contradiction had divided girls below the age of 18 into two categories. “One, those who are not married and for them, the age of sexual consent is 18. Then there are those who are married and a husband can have sexual intercourse with his wife if she is above the age of 15, irrespective of her consent,” it argued during a hearing. The Indian law, however, doesn’t have a provision for the age of consent for boys. The discussion for increasing the age of consent was because the younger girls were inexpert of understanding the consequences of her decision. As a minor would never be mentally or physically mature enough to give consent.

The government, however, had told the court that child marriage was a reality in the country where economic and educational development was unbalanced. So it was decided to retain the exception in Section 375. In an affidavit, the government had said that 46% of the married women between the ages of 18 and 29 had their marriage ceremony before 18.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *