Will SC verdict ensure girl child safety?

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In a landmark judgement, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, on Wednesday has ruled that a man will be punished for rape if he is found guilty of having sexual act with his underage wife. This verdict, delivered on the Inter-national Girls Day, indicated Section 375 of the IPC that defines the offence of rape has an exception clause that allowed a man to have sex with his minor wife aged between 15 and 18, was arbitrary and violated the Constitution. A man nonetheless won’t be considered guilty of rape if he indulges in sex with a child above 15 who happens to be his wife despite child marriage being banned in India. The court had earlier reserved the verdict while questioning the Centre how the Parliament could create an exception in law declaring that intercourse or a sexual act by a man with his wife, aged between 15 and less than 18 years, is not rape when the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) considers sex with children below 18 as rape. The apex court had also observed that child marriage cannot go on like this just because this illegal practice was assumed to be legal and has been going on for ages.

Dr. Vanita Raut, Gynaecologist said, “The girl is not mentally ready and there is a possibility of her getting infected with sexually transmitted diseases if sex is forced on her. She will undergo mental trauma which will have an everlasting effect on her and there will be unwanted pregnancies which will have too much complications. When a minor girl gets pregnant she hesitates to disclose about it to the family members.”

Ujjwal Nikam, Public prosecutor said, “I welcome the Supreme Court’s judgement as minor cannot be subjected to any sexual assault. The apex court has taken a right decision as minor has to undergo severe difficulties after she becomes pregnant. A married man cannot have forceful physical relationship with the minor.”

Advocate Manaswi Tayade said, “There has been sharp increase in rape incidents on minors. According to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife who is not being under 15 years of age is not rape. Earlier it was not considered illegal to have sex with girl aged less than 15 years. In those days, people used to get married at a young age and they used to have children early. The accused responsible for raping the minor easily used to defend himself by saying that he is willing to marry the victim. We should welcome the Supreme Court verdict as it will provide justice to women against sexual assault and ban can be imposed on child marriage.”

Suchitra Shah Bhide, Counselling Psychologist said, “I agree with the honourable court’s judgement. At this age, girls are immature and they are not mentally prepared for sex. So it can lead to forced sex and they will have to undergo immense pressure. Girls may take it as a bad touch and will oppose it throughout their lives.”