Honourable Supreme Court of India passed a landmark judgement about the well being of the girls who get married before the age of 18. The verdict concluded that sexual intercourse with a ‘minor wife’ is a ‘rape’.
What is this exactly?
Supreme Court decreed that a girl child below the age of 18 cannot be treated as commodity. The justice made a fair point by saying that a child is a child whether she is from the streets, abandoned, unmarried or married. Therefore, the man who has sex with his wife who is under the age of 18 faces criminal prosecution. She has every right over her body and therefore she can deny sexual intercourse to her husband.
How it came into being?
As per our laws, an unmarried girl child can prosecute the one who tried to have non-consensual sex with her, but a married child aged between 15 and 18 years of age could not do that. The exception 2 to section 375(rape) of the Indian Penal Code allowed the husband of a girl child blanket liberty and freedom to have non-consensual sexual intercourse with her. The girl child’s consent was of no concern and the husband wasn’t punished in such cases. An NGO found it unfair and therefore filed a petition against it in 2013.
However, the judgement received many questions from people. People raised concerns about the fact that child marriage is already a crime, then how does this judgment make sense? Yes, of course child marriage is a ‘criminal offence’ in India but The prohibition of child marriage act 2006 says if a ‘minor’ gets married, her marriage can not be considered void. Therefore, the apex of the verdict is for protection of minors, who are already married and suffering. The man is no longer protected by the law to rape his ‘minor wife’.
Lastly, comes the issue of ‘Marital rape.’ Unfortunately, it still remains unaddressed. However, this historic judgement has revived our hope that judiciary and the legislative system will come up with another empowering decision in future. But we acknowledge the fact that this decision is a major step in discouraging child marriages in India.