Sex with child brides in India ruled illegal: a recent development in the feminist ambient
Last month, India’s Supreme Court has declared sex with married girls from 15 to 18 years of age to be considered rape and therefore illegal. This new law includes consensual intercourse within arranged marriages. A groundbreaking development, this newly established legislation is a step forward for women’s rights in India, condoning pedophilia and/or domestic abuse.
As stated by India’s top court "If a man has sexual intercourse with a wife who is below 18 years, it is an offense. The underaged wife can complain against the husband within one year," continuing that if the girl is below 18 years old, the sexual act would be deemed “unconstitutional.”
However, despite this development, this new legislation is unfortunately not expected to be thoroughly implemented and respected.
Social activist Mustafa of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi mentioned “It is unclear how this judgment will be enforced as child marriages are rampant in tribal societies across India.”
As reported by Girls Not Brides coalition of an NGO working daily to prevent illegal practices of child marriage, a dramatic 47 percent of Indian girls are already married by the age of 18 years. Marital rape, which was previously not classified as a crime, was legally enforceable to girls as young as 15 years of age. Such practice is now explicitly illegal and girls are encouraged to denounce these acts, making for an encouraging landmark to women activists across the globe.
In an interview with Reuters, Equality Now member Divya Srinivasan stated “The judgment is a step forward in protecting girls from abuse and exploitation, irrespective of their marital status.”
Advocates for the controversial tradition of teen marriage claim it is a way for the less wealthy families to survive. Alternatively, marrying daughters as soon as possible is also interpreted as a way to keep young girls ‘safe,’ considering the outnumbering ratio of man to woman india.
Women’s rights advocate Jagmati Sangwan supports the law in question, suggesting it may decrease levels of human trafficking all together. “I think this ruling will get more girls to step forward and assert their rights,” she claimed.
After a shocking number of 34,000 reports of rape cases in 2015 alone, one can only hope that this recent development will empower young girls across India, and perhaps in the distant future decrease the abuse that young girls are forced to endure on a daily basis, both in and out of a marital bond.