On October 11th, the Indian Supreme Court made some colossal changes regarding their rape laws. Although child marriage was made illegal in 2006 with the ‘Prohibition of Child Marriage Act’ which came into force on the first of November in 2007, 47% of girls are still being married by the age of 18, according to ‘girlsnotbrides.org’. This means that there are still hundreds of girls under the age of 18 at risk of being abused in their marriages before they are of age; which led the Supreme Court to finally settle this case once and for all. This new law states that a man with a wife under the age of 15 may not engage in sexual intercourse or else he will be charged with a count of rape, along with other charges.
Now why is this such a big change, one might ask? Well, here in the United States of America, the criminalization of marital rape started in the 1970s and by 1993 marital rape was considered a crime in all 50 states. And although that may sound great, even we were late in the game seeing as Poland first ruled it illegal in 1932, Czechoslovakia in 1950, both the Soviet Union and Denmark in 1960, and Sweden soon after in 1965.
It’s been a long time coming but we’re happy to see India join us on this road to protection of young women all around the globe. Therefore any child, girl or boy, who claims to be raped by an adult will be protected by the law, and now all married girls under the age of 15 are also protected by the law. But this still leaves questions and conflicts regarding certain other laws. The legal age of consent in India is 18, but the law only protects those ages 15 and under. So what does this mean for the girls in between the ages of 15 and 18? Will they be more or less anxious to go to the authorities with their accusations, for fear of being told there’s nothing to be done? Or will this help provide a sense of hope for these young women in distress?