Sex With Wife Below 18 Is Rape, Says Supreme Court

Under the Indian Penal Code or IPC, a man having sex with a girl below 18 - with or without her consent - is defined as a crime. However, an exception is made if the girl is his wife and not below 15.

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Sex With Wife Below 18 Is Rape, Says Supreme Court

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'If a man has sexual intercourse with a wife who is below 18, it's an offence': Supreme Court

New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. Court ends exception in law for men married to girls who are above 15
  2. Judges made it clear they were not getting into subject of marital rape
  3. Rape and child marriage laws of India disagree on age of consent
Sex with a wife below 18 is rape, the Supreme Court ruled today, ending an exception that the law makes for men married to girls who are above 15. What was acceptable decades ago may not be acceptable today, said the court.

"If a man has sexual intercourse with a wife who is below 18 years, it is an offence. The minor wife can complain against the husband within one year," said the court in a landmark decision that will affect millions of child brides.

The judges made it clear they were not getting into the subject of marital rape.

Rape and child marriage laws of India disagree on the age of consent.

The law defines sex with a girl below 18 - with or without her consent - as a crime. However, if the man has sex with a wife aged between 15 and 18, it is legal.

The court ruled that the exception is "discriminatory, capricious and arbitrary" and "violates bodily integrity of the girl child."

The petitioner in this case, Independent Thought, had flagged the conflict in the law.

The Centre had defended the immunity granted to men having sex with underage wives above 15, saying: "The institution of marriage must be protected. Otherwise, the children from such marriages will suffer."

Some laws like the "exception provided for marital rape had been made taking into account the socio-economic realities of life in India" the government had said, adding that the court need not interfere, that it would be a call for parliament to take.

The court responded: "Just because there are child marriages across the country as a tradition, should it be accepted?  Times have changed and what was acceptable a few decades ago may not necessarily be acceptable today."

The judges also said it was "dreadful that the artificial distinction turns a blind eye to trafficking of the girl child."

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