Marital rape with a girl below 18 years

Sexual intercourse with a bride below 18 years if a rape.

Whether sexual intercourse between a man and his wife being a girl between 15 and 18 years of age is rape? 

Exception 2 to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (the IPC) answers this in the negative, but in our opinion sexual intercourse with a girl below 18 years of age is rape regardless of whether she is married or not. The exception carved out in the IPC creates an unnecessary and artificial distinction between a married girl child and an unmarried girl child and has no rational nexus with any unclear objective sought to be achieved.

The artificial distinction is arbitrary and discriminatory and is definitely not in the best interest of the girl child. The artificial distinction is contrary to the philosophy and ethos of Article 15(3) of the Constitution as well as contrary to Article 21 of the Constitution and our commitments in international conventions. It is also contrary to the philosophy behind some statutes, the bodily integrity of the girl child and her reproductive choice. What is equally dreadful, the artificial distinction turns a blind eye to trafficking of the girl child and surely each one of us must discourage trafficking which is such a horrible social evil.

Conclusion:

we are left with absolutely no other option but to harmonize the system of laws relating to children and require Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC to now be meaningfully read as: “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.” It is only through this reading that the intent of social justice to the married girl child and the constitutional vision of the framers of our Constitution can be preserved and protected and perhaps given impetus.

106. We make it clear that we have not at all dealt with the larger issue of marital rape of adult women since that issue was not raised before us by the petitioner or the intervener.

[Source: Independent Thought vs. Union of India, decided by SC on October 11, 2017]
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