Law reform is needed to secure greater respect for adolescent sexual and reproductive autonomy

November 17, 2017
Gender & Sexuality

Today’s [17.11.2017] edition of Times of India carries an op-ed on the Oct 11th Supreme Court judgement on the Child Marriage and Marital Rape case by Jayna Kothari, Executive Director at CLPR, and Payal Shah, Senior Counsel for Asia at Center for Reproductive Rights.

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Last month on International Day of the Girl Child (October 11), the Supreme Court of India issued a groundbreaking ruling that both affirmed child marriage as a violation of girls’ constitutional and human rights, as well as recognised nonconsensual sex within child marriages as rape. The judgment stated that nonconsensual sex within marriage involving girls under 18 years of age can be criminalised just the same as nonconsensual sex outside of marriage.

The landmark case eliminated the discrimination against married girls above 15 years of age that was created under IPC, in contradiction to the Prohibition of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act which makes no distinction between married and unmarried girls. The Supreme Court emphasised how child marriage harms girls’ sexual and reproductive health and recognised the constitutional obligation to ensure married girls’ reproductive rights.

The Supreme Court has emphasised the need to remove the onus the law places on girls to challenge child marriages and resulting abuse, and to develop a “focussed implementation plan” for the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA). Timely legal support for women and girls is critical, particularly as the judgment only allows a one year statute of limitation for young brides to seek justice.