Early marriages take away self-esteem, confidence of girl child

Supreme Court

"It was found that at the time of carrying out the survey in 2014, amongst women in the age group of 20-24 years, nearly 26.8 percent women were married before they attained the age of 18 years, i.e. more than one out of four marriages was of a girl child", he said.

According to the IPC, Section 2 of Article 375, "A man is said to commit rape if he penetrates his penis, to any extent, into the vagina, mouth, urethra or anus of a woman or makes her do so with him or any other person against her will or without her consent".

"You know that child marriages are banned in India and that is something that is the letter of the law and as individuals, we should follow it", Congress spokesperson R. P. N. Singh told reporters here. Under Section 375 of IPC, which defines the offence of rape, there was earlier an exception clause, which said that intercourse or sexual act by a man with his wife, not below 15 years, was not rape. The court declared yesterday that if a husband has sex with his underage wife, that qualifies as rape.

As per the data, 13 percent under-18 girls in Delhi were married which has come down from 22.7 percent recorded in 2005-06. "The matter of marital rape in the cases of adult women, however, will have to be separately argued", said Jaising, adding that the age of consent is a larger issue at hand.

The court said: "We can only express the hope that the Government of India and state governments take an informed decision on the effective implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and actively prohibit child marriages, which "encourage" sexual intercourse with a girl child". But same would not be the situation if the parties are known to each other are intellectually/academically proficient and if in the past there have been physical contact. The arguments given, clearly discriminated between a no of an uneducated woman and a no of educated women.

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By increasing the age limit from 15 to 18 and declaring sex with the wife under the age of 18 as rape is definitely a step in the right direction, but the journey is not complete yet. "For the longest time human traffickers have been using marriage with minors as an alibi to rape young girls in the first instance before selling them to pimps and brothel owners".

Doing away with this exception would open up the domain of marital rape, which does not exist in India, replied the Centre. Does a man having forced sex with his better half without her consent not destroy the institution of marriage already?

But the reality in India didn't match the laws.

A bench of Justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta, which criminalised sex with a minor wife in a landmark verdict on Wednesday, referred to a study conducted on child marriages, based on 2011 census. "Marital Rape should be a crime". Therefore, it does appear that only a notional or linguistic distinction is sought to be made between rape and penetrative sexual assault and rape of a married girl child and aggravated penetrative sexual assault.

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