World

India's Supreme Court rules that sex with a child is always rape

NEW DELHI: Sex with a minor amounts to rape even if the couple are married, India's top court ruled yesterday, closing a legal loophole that had allowed some perpetrators to escape punishment.

The age of consent, and thus legal age for girls to marry in India is 18, but millions of children are made to do so when they are much younger, particularly in poor rural areas.

India's rape laws exclude married couples, which historically meant that even non-consensual sex with a minor could not be classed as rape if it took place within marriage. But the Supreme Court said that contradicted India's strict laws on the age of consent. It ruled that the police should in future prosecute cases of marital rape if the victim was under 18 and registered a complaint within a year of the incident.

Many in India marry off their children to improve financial security and avoid the shame associated with pre-marital sex.

The government has said it opposes criminalising marital rape, as this would damage the institution of marriage. - AFP

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