Top Indian court rules sex with wife younger than 18 is rape

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While pointing out the consensual sex between youths, Karat said, "If the girl is 16 and the boy around the same age, to treat such a relationship as statutory rape, and for the boy to be deemed a criminal and rapist is wrong".

" "(A girl child) can not be treated as a commodity having no say over her body or someone who has no right to deny sexual intercourse to her husband". The proportion of the married minors among the girls hovered around 2% across the communities, suggesting that religious faith is not a marker in the practice of child marriages.

The ruling overturns a provision in the penal code that allowed sex with a girl over 15 years-old if the couple was married. The rape of a married girl child (between 15 and 18 years) is not rape under the IPC and therefore not an offence in view of Exception 2 to Section 375 thereof but it is an offence of aggravated penetrative sexual assault under Section 5 (n) of the POCSO Act and punishable under Section 6 of that Act. In a society where the girl child is subjected to discrimination and exploitation in myriad ways, the exception carved out in the IPC creates an unnecessary and artificial distinction between a married girl child and an unmarried girl child. In denying minors who may have been victims of early and forced marriages recourse to criminal law in instances of sexual violence within the marriage, the Exception offends their bodily integrity and violates their Right to Life, Privacy, & Dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Interestingly, although the court has categorically stated that it is not dealing with the larger issue of marital rape, Justice Madan B Lokur has held that "Constitutionally, a female has equal rights as a male and any theory that propounds a constitutional myth to the contrary must be demolished." .

Though child marriage is prohibited, it is not automatically void under India's civil laws.

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that sexual intercourse with a girl younger than 18 is rape.

According to Girls Not Brides, an organization campaigning to end child marriage, Pakistan's National Assembly has rejected draft of the Child Marriage Restraint Act in the past, most recently in May this year.

A detailed coverage of the arguments and verdict in the said case is available here.

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