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Sex with Wife Below 18 Is Rape, says Supreme Court

Sex with Wife Below 18 Is Rape, says Supreme Court

The top court did not rule on "marital rape", which is sexual intercourse forced upon a spouse no matter what their age.

Supreme Court said the exception in the rape law was contrary to the philosophy of other statutes and violated the bodily integrity of a girl child. While the SC bench clarified that it had not gone into the larger issue of marital rape in its verdict, the verdict could possibly have a bearing on the case as well since both concern the right of a woman over her body.

The Supreme Court said that it can not turn a blind eye to girl child trafficking and asked the state to take steps to prevent child marriages.

The Supreme Court's landmark judgment came on a petition filed by NGO Independent Thought. POCSO specifically bars all sexual activities with girl children below the age of 18 years and the offence is aggravated if the accused is related through marriage.

Coincidentally, this progressive step by the Supreme Court comes on a day when the world marks the Day of the Girl Child. A husband can have sexual intercourse with his wife, if she is above the age of 15 years irrespective of her consent. The rape victims were among the age group of below six years to over 60 years.

India's 2011 census showed child marriage had declined marginally from a decade earlier but more than 5 million girls were still married before the legal age of 18.




The petitioners had argued that the exception to Section 375 of the IPC was defeating the goal of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and was also in violation of worldwide conventions to which India was a signatory.

Child marriages continue to be prevalent in India.

We can not ignore that child marriages still occur in many parts of the country. Justice Lokur had asked in response.

Even though the issue of safety of women has taken centre stage in India, debates around whether marital rape should be punishable are still doing the rounds. "Therefore, it can not be considered as a criminal offence", the bench said previously in this case. The bench directed that the police can arrest and prosecute the husband if the wife complains.

The court did not rule on a separate legal case on marital rape for adults. The petitioners prayed that the clause be struck down as it is "violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution".