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Marital Rape for Girls 18 and Younger Becomes Illegal in India

India’s Supreme Court has recently ruled that a husband can no longer have sex with his wife if she is younger than 18 years old. If he does this, he is committing an act of rape. Now, young girls that are raped by their husbands can press charges within one year of the offense. This still does not prevent all marital rape, but it is a big step forward for India. The Guardian states that according to the most recent national census, it can be estimated that nearly 12 million Indian children under 10 years old were married.

Until this court ruling, a wife could not press charges of rape against her husband unless she is under 15 years old. According to Girls Not Brides, a coalition of NGOs that is working to end child marriage, 47 percent of Indian girls are married by 18 years old.

There are concerns about the difficulty of enforcing this new law, particularly because of India’s conservative rural areas where child marriage persists due to poverty, low education, patriarchal social values, and weak law enforcement, according to UNICEF.

“A minor girl who is already married, almost always with the consent of her parents, will not usually have the courage to go to the police or court and file a case against her husband,” said Geeta Pandey, a BBC reporter.

In 2015, there were more than 34,000 rape cases reported in the country, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau. Domestic abuse is even more widespread, affecting 40 percent of married women between the ages of 15 to 49 years old, and 70 percent of child brides, according to government statistics.

We must remember that just because the laws change does not mean that the culture changes, too. It takes a long time for issues like these to resolve. Domestic abuse appears in not only physical forms, but also in emotional forms. If you are having trouble recognizing abuse, click here for a list of signs that may be occurring in your community.

Featured Image by Daniel Barrientos on Flickr

Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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