In a further step to become a modern nation, India’s Supreme Court issued a ruling today stating that it is now rape if a man has sex with his underage wife, even if she is older than 15.
Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code said sex with a girl who is below 18 is rape but it used to carry an exception (as public administrators knew that this was a widespread and very common practice in the millions of small towns which India counts), which allowed a man to have sex with his underage wife, 15 or above, even without her consent.
As from today, that has changed though.
The age of consent in India is still 18, but marital rape will as from now be considered an offence and the clause to 15 will be dropped. The verdict was hailed by women's rights activists allover India.
Local correspondents admit that the order will likely be difficult to enforce in the beginning and that it will take some time for this new order to drip through society.
The judgment states that girls under 18 need to complain within one year of being forced to have sexual relations with their newlywed husband.
Mr Vikram Srivastava, the founder of Independent Thought right’s activist group: "This is a landmark judgment that corrects a historical wrong against girls. How could marriage be used as a criteria to discriminate against girls?"
Ms Geeta Pandey, reporter for the BBC, admitted that the ruling is very welcome, but will be difficult to enforce in the early stages: "Courts and police cannot monitor people's bedrooms and a minor girl who is already married, almost always with the consent of her parents, will not usually have the courage to go to the police or court and file a case against her husband."
The Indian government meanwhile admits that upholding the practice of child marriage is "an obstacle to nearly every developmental goal: eradicating poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality; protecting children's lives; and improving women's health".
According to official estimates, there are currently 23 million child brides in India and 46 percent of women aged 18 to 29 are married off by their families before the age of 18.