Court rules sex with underage wife rape

India’s top court ruled yesterday that a man is committing rape if he engages in sexual intercourse with his wife who is aged between 15 and 18, a landmark decision that will affect millions of child brides.

The legal age of consent is 18.

The law regards even consensual sex with a woman under 16 as rape, but an exception had been made for intercourse between a man and his wife who is between 15 and 18.

Marital rape is not a crime in India, where the government has said criminalising marital rape could destabalise marriages and make men vulnerable to harassment by their wives.

The Supreme Court ruled the age of consent was 18 for “all purposes” after hearing a petition by Independent Thought, a non-profit group that sought to criminalise sex with underaged wives.

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