Minor Wife Protected From Rape But What About The Major Wife?

Sex with a minor wife is now considered rape, but what about relief for older wives? Shouldn't we push to criminalize marital rape for all ages?

Sex with a minor wife is now considered rape, but what about relief for older wives? Shouldn’t we push to criminalise marital rape for all ages?

In a landmark decision by Supreme Court, it had termed sex with minor wife as rape. This verdict has given relief to the minors who are entrapped in child marriages.

So, what made this a landmark decision?

Section 375 of Indian Penal Code constitutes the Rape law. It has its various circumstances to be considered as rape. But there are exceptions to this law. First exception says, ‘A medical procedure or intervention shall not constitute rape’.

But there were questions on the second exception which says, ‘Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.’

Now, the second exception though seen as viable, the conflict is with the age group mentioned in that exception. While the official age for a girl to get married is 18 years of age, in the exception it is merely 15 years.

So, the Supreme Court amended the exception which now says, ‘Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.’

What’s the difference?

People may argue that there may be no difference either way because we have a Child Marriage Prohibition Act. Even while the proceedings were going on this was questioned. But the affidavit filed by the central government in its National Family Health Survey-3 (of 2005) says that Child Marriage is reality in India. About 23 million child brides are there in India wherein this amendment of exception protects them from sexual intercourse.

The number 23 million might come as a surprise for some, but it certainly is a reality in many pockets of India, and proves to be the hurdle on the path of achieving social prosperity of India.

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Marital Rape

Just as child marriage is reality in India, so is marital rape.

A rape is a rape irrespective of the age, marital status and even the gender (rape law in India does not constitute for male victims of rape) and for this reason marital rape should be criminalized. But SC has said that this verdict does not criminalise it.

The government is of the view that criminalizing marital rape could lead to the disturbance in the institution of marriage. Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development was of the opinion that there is already a law guard for women under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDV).

The judiciary has its own level of crime wherein the accused is prosecuted under it. The degree of crime corresponds to the punishment. PWDV punishes the accused of the jail term and penalty while the rape law constitutes with more rigorous punishment. Even violence doesn’t equalize with the heinous rape.

So, the married women (above 18 years) suffering from marital rape have no ground to complain in the Indian Judicial System. Don’t they deserve some justice too?

Image source: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, for representational purposes.

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Saili Chavan

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