India’s Top Court Finally Rules That Sex with a Child Bride is Always Rape

In what can be seen as a landmark change, India’s top court had ruled that having sex with a child bride is always considered rape, thus officially putting an end to the clause that somehow allows grown men to be in bed with under-age girls as long as they are married.

Under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, it stated there that having sex with a girl who is under 18 will be considered as rape. However, a loophole in the law states the exception that it won’t be called rape if the two are man and wife, regardless if the child is under the age of consent, which is 18 years old, or whether if she gave her consent or not.

The high court, during the ruling that took place on October 11, 2017, had ruled that the clause was “discriminatory, capricious, and arbitrary” and “violates the bodily integrity of the girl child,” according to Global Citizen.

“This is a landmark judgement that corrects a historical wrong against girls. How could marriage be used as a criterion to discriminate against girls?” founder of Independent Thought and one of the petitioners in the case, Vikram Srivastava, told BBC.

Divya Srinivasan from Equality Now, a women’s rights organization, expressed her hopefulness to the decision that the Indian Supreme Court ruled.

“The judgement is a step forward in protecting girls from abuse and exploitation, irrespective of their marital status,” she told Global Citizen. “This positive decision by the Supreme Court will hopefully encourage the Indian government to protect all women by removing the marital rape exemption in all cases.”

Geeta Pandey, BBC’s correspondent in New Delhi, India, finds the implementation of the ruling to be quite difficult, most especially in the country where the practice of child marriage is pretty much rampant.

“Courts and police cannot monitor people’s bedrooms and a minor girl who is already married, almost always with the consent of her parents, will not usually have the courage to go to the police or court and file a case against her husband,” she said.

This practice, according to India’s government, is “an obstacle to nearly every developmental goal: eradicating poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality; protecting children’s lives; and improving women’s health.”

In the report published by Reuters last month, UNICEF’s chief of child protection, Javier Aguilar, said that there has been a sharp drop in India’s child marriage practice in the last decade.

He further stated that a decade ago, about 47% of girls get married before they even turn 18 in the country, but the current trend sees that only 27% – nearly 1.5 million – of girls are getting married under the legal age of consent.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons / Biswarup Ganguly (CC BY 3.0)

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