NEW DELHI – India’s top court criminalized on Wednesday sex between a man and his underage wife provided the wife files a complaint within a year.
The Supreme Court’s landmark order that fixes the age of consent for all Indian women at 18, follows a petition by the organization Independent Thought which had pointed out an existing contradiction in India’s rape law that allowed a man to have sex with his minor wife even without consent, provided the wife was over 15 years of age.
The court said that “differentiating between minors only on the basis that there is a marriage is not possible,” founder of Independent Thought Vikram Srivastava told EFE.
Srivastava added that in its ruling the court took into consideration wide-ranging and well-established legislation regarding the protection of minors and ruled the exception invalid.
The activist said he was very happy with the decision and added that although in rural areas child marriages were common – 40 percent of girls in rural India are married off before they turn 18 – a gradual social change was underway.
The 2006 Prohibition of Child Marriage Act could do little to curb the practice with around 27 percent of Indian girls still being married off before they turn 18.