Child Marriage Current Affairs

SC criminalises sex with minor wife aged between 15 to 18 years

The Supreme Court has criminalised sex between man and his underage wife below 18 years provided the woman files a complaint within a year. The landmark order fixes the age of consent at 18 for all girls.

The apex court gave its order on a petition filed by NGO Independent Thought which had challenged exception clause (2) in Section 375 IPC (which deals with rape).

What is the issue?

The clause (2) of Section 375 IPC had created dichotomy over age of consent as it says intercourse or sexual act by a man with his wife, not below 15 years, is not rape. According to NGO Independent Thought’s petition, this exception clause was against objectives of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (which sets 18 years as statutory marriageable age for girls) and also violation of international conventions to which India was a signatory.

SC Verdict

The Supreme Court held that age of marriage was 18 in all laws and exception given in rape law under clause (2) of Section 375 of IPC was arbitrary and was violates the rights of a girl child. It is violates Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution. Moreover it was contrary to the philosophy of other statutes and violates the bodily integrity of a girl child. It asked the Centre and states to take proactive steps to prohibit child marriage across country. The apex court also clarified that it has not dealt with the issue of marital rape as it was not raised before it.


Kerela’s shocking Child Marriage figures

A recent report by UNICEF has brought-out shocking statistics about the most literate state of the country- Kerela. The report suggests an apparent rise in rate of child marriages in the state. The trend which is more prominent in the rural parts than the urban areas, has been quite alarming. Kerela has always scored well on the gender bias front and thus the new study by UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist in India Dora Giusti has come as a surprise for many.
The new phenomenon which has raised its head is largely attributed to the migration from northern states. The District Level Household and Facility Survey’s latest statistics have further highlighted that child marriage is more spread in the rural parts of the state where the rate is as high as 48% as compared to the urban areas where it still 29%. This is also as documented by Giusti, more common in some sections of society which comprise low-caste and scheduled tribes.
Presenting national statistics, the UNICEF has stated the 52.5 percent girls in the bracket of 20-24 years in rural India were child brides and got married much before the legal age of 18 years. The gap which has widened in Kerela and is also widely seen in other parts of rural India, as suggested by UNICEF will take another 50 years to be completely overcome. It is more of a change in mindsets than effective laws which play a major role in such crisis. Effective implementation of laws to grassroot level where this evil thrives should be made.
There are some states where child marriages are still common and are left unchecked. They are Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Here the rate of child marriages vary from 51.9%- 68.2 percent. Bihar has recorded highest incidence of 68.2 percent and Himachal Pradesh has the lowest percentage of 9 percent.
Such glaring statistics and reports make the dream of progressive India seem distant and blurred. We as a nation have to rise above the medieval mindsets and thinking and let our children breathe in free air and provide them the deserving atmosphere to grow and shine. Child marriages bring with them a host of severe mental and physical trauma for young and innocent minds.