Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Role of women & women’s organization
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Indian Penal Code, The Prohibition of Prevention of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), Juvenile Justice Act, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, Article 15(3) of the Constitution, Criminal Procedure Code, National Family Health Survey
Mains level: Various aspects related to marital rape and their status in SC and HC’s
- The Supreme Court has criminalized sexual intercourse by a husband with his wife who is under 18 years of age
- The decision applies to all faiths and is expected to act as a deterrent against child marriage, which, although prohibited under the law, is still prevalent in many parts of the country
- Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines the offense of rape, has an exception clause that says intercourse or sexual act by a man with his wife, not below 15 years, is not rape
- However, the age of consent is 18 years
What SC said on these?
- SC Judges read down this exception arguing that it was inconsistent with other statutes dealing with children such as The Prohibition of Prevention of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), Juvenile Justice Act and The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act — all these have fixed the minimum age of the girl child for sexual relations at eighteen
- It was also contrary to the philosophy and ethos of Article 15(3) of the Constitution as well as contrary to Article 21 of the Constitution and our commitments in international conventions and to the philosophy behind some statutes, the bodily integrity of the girl child and her reproductive choice
- Child marriages not only violated human rights, it also affects the health of the child
- SC also pointed to the need for amending PCMA as a lot of child trafficking is taking place under the garb of marriage including child marriage
Will previous cases of child marriages/rape be reconsidered?
- The judgment will have “prospective effect” meaning it will not apply to past cases
- Cognizance of such offenses can be taken only in accordance with the provisions of section 198(6) of the Criminal Procedure Code
- The provision says that court shall not take cognizance of an offense under Section 376 IPC “if more than one year has elapsed from the date of commission of the offense”
Does this judgment apply to women above 18 years of age also?
- The SC bench clarified that it was not making any observation on “marital rape” of a woman who is 18 years of age and above as the issue was not before the court
- The question whether marital rape should be criminalized is pending before the Delhi High Court where the Centre has filed an affidavit opposing this saying that doing so may destabilize the institution of marriage apart from being an easy tool for harassing husbands
Statistics related to Child marriages/rape (Can be quoted in Mains)
- The National Family Health Survey-4, 2015-2016 found that at the time of carrying out the survey in 2014, amongst women in the age group of 20-24 years, almost 26.8% women were married before they attained the age of 18 years
- This means more than one out of 4 marriages was of a girl child
- A report based on the 2011 Census reveals a shocking aspect that girls below the age of 18 years are subjected to three times more marital rape as compared to the grown-up women