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Indian supreme court rules sex with minor wife 'rape'

INDIAN SUPREME COURT RULES SEX WITH MINOR WIFE RAPE

The Supreme Court in capital New Delhi ruled on Wednesday that sexual intercourse with a minor wife was rape and would be punishable under the country's criminal law.

The ruling came following a public interest litigation filed in the apex court that sought to allow a married girl below 18 years of age to lodge a police report -- known as First Information Report or FIR -- if she was forced to have sex with her husband.

According to the Indian penal code, a man commits a crime by having sex with a girl below 18 years of age, with or without her consent. But previously he was allowed to have sex with his wife if she was not below 15 years of age.

The Supreme Court has now ruled that this exception is unconstitutional.

The bench, comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Madan B. Lokur, ruled: "If a man has sexual intercourse with a wife who is below 18 years, it is an offence. The minor wife can complain against the husband within one year."

The court clarified that the ruling was not linked the issue of marital rape.

The central government recently told the supreme court that criminalizing marital rape could destabilize the institution of marriage and become an easy tool for harassing husbands.

While expressing concern over the practice of child marriages in the country, the bench said social justice laws were not being implemented with the spirit with which they had been enacted by parliament.

The court also urged central and state governments to take proactive steps to prohibit child marriages in the country.

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