Gender

Centre Has No Problem If Sex is Forced on Minor Wife

Given the "socio-economic realities" around child marriage in India, the Centre argued before the Supreme Court, the exception is needed to "protect the institution of marriage".

The government claimed there are 23 million child brides in the country. Representative image credit: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee

New Delhi: The Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that a man forcibly having sex with his minor wife, if she is above 15 years of age, should not come under IPC Section 375 (rape). This exception in the rape law, the Centre said, is to "protect the institution of marriage," Hindustan Times reported.

The government was responding to a plea filed before the court by the NGO Independent Thought, urging the court to include all minors, irrespective of marital status, under Section 375. Currently an exception to the rape law states that, "Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape."

Marriage law in India does not allow a woman to be legally married before the age of 18. Consensual sex with a minor outside of marriage is also considered rape by the law. Given all of this, Times of India quoted the NGO's lawyer Gaurav Agrawal as arguing, "We see a girl under 18 years of age as a child in POCSO Act, but once she is married, she is no more a child under the exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC. This is totally inconsistent. The truth is that a girl under 15 is still a child, married or not. The parliament has to protect the child."

The Centre, however, through its lawyer Binu Tamta, resisted the NGO's plea. Tamta argued that child marriages were a reality in India and that "the institution of marriage must be protected. Otherwise, the children from such marriages will suffer."

"Isn't this an incentive for child marriage?" Justice Madan B. Lokur asked, on hearing Tamta's defence.

The government claimed there are 23 million child brides in the country and reading down the exception to Section 375 would make the men involved more susceptible to persecution, at which Justice Deepak Gupta said, according to Hindustan Times, "This reflects badly on the government."

According to the Telegraph, the apex court has given the Centre two weeks to provide data relating to the prosecution of those involved in child marriage, the number of prohibition officers appointed by states as per the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act, 2006 and medical records on the impact of such marriages on children.

  • alok asthana

    Centre does too many immoral and/or illegal things. The number of acts of this govt which have been struck down by courts as illegal must be a record.

  • Anjan Basu

    What an outrageous position the govt appears to be taking here! Even consensual sex with a minor is a criminal offence when it happens outside marriage, but the govt considers forced sex with a bride, who is still a minor, perfectly acceptable! Why? Because, in its profound wisdom, the govt is desperately keen to ‘protect’ the venerable institution of marriage ( which, apparently, runs the risk of imploding without forced sex). So marrying an under-18 bride is bad in law, but what the husband does to her after such an illegal marriage is fully legal! This is truly extraordinary. Only a govt mired in obscurantism and ignorance can advance such an argument.

  • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

    Proves yet again that this government’s eagerness to get rid of triple talaq has less to do with its concern for women (and MUSLIM women at that, who must be right at the top of its list of electorally dispensables!) and is more about advancement of the Sanghis’ much desired uniform civil code.

    • Anjan Basu

      Absolutely!