Churches Praise India's New Anti-Child Marriage Law

Published 16 October 2017  |  

Churches in India have commended the Supreme Court's landmark judgment on Oct. 11, after it ruled that having sexual intercourse with a minor wife is rape.

The court held that the exception clause to rape, carved out in the Indian Penal Code—Section 375—unconstitutional and allowed a child bride to file a complaint of rape if subjected to sex without consent. The controversial exception reads, "Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape".

By reading down the said exception in the anti-rape provision of IPC, the court recognized sex by a man with a wife below 18 years of age as marital rape.

Mandy Marshall, director of Restored, an international Christian domestic abuse education charity, said, "It's bringing consistency in the laws within India."

"The child protection laws already prohibit an adult having sex with someone below the age of 18, but this new law actually recognizes there's a lot of child marriage in India and wanting to make that unacceptable," she added.

The extraordinary development puts question marks on the legality of child marriages in India. The move is likely to have a bearing on the criminality of marital rape, an issue which has been widely debated both by Parliament and the courts.

"It's a positive step in the right direction but there's a heck of a long way to go for changing the culture around child marriage in India," said Marshall.

In India, social and cultural structures remain challenging and will take more time to improvise.

"We've worked with Christian organizations in India that know it's a problem linked with poverty and status and illiteracy, and that needs to change," said Marshall.

"They see girls as a burden rather than seeing a child as precious and honored in God's sight, and worth of dignity and respect as much as a boy child," she added.


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