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.
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.