Did you know that the legal age of consent in 1860 was 10 years

Express News Service | Published: 11th October 2017 09:58 PM

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said sex with wife below 18 years of age is rape, striking down the provision of criminal law that permitted sex with wife aged between 15 and 18. The landmark order comes at a time when there is a raging debate over the age of consent.

Historically the minimum age of consent and minimum age prescribed for marriage has consistently increased


Age of consent under section 375, 5th clause, IPC.

Age mentioned in the Exception to section 375, IPC

Minimum age of marriage under the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929

1860 10 years 10 years -
1891 12 years 12 years -
1925 14 years 13 years -
1940 16 years 15 years 15 years
1978 16 years 15 years 18 years
2017 18 years 15 years 18 years

(Source: Supreme Court of India Judgement)

Total 670 cases of child marriage registered in the country between 2012-2014

(Source: In a reply in parliament, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said, quoting NCRB data)

Legal age for marriage in India

Male- 21, Female- 18

Decline in the proportion of women aged 20-24 married before age 18 in the last decade

Rajasthan- 65percent to 35 percent 

Bihar   - 60 percent to 39 percent

Decline in the proportion of men aged 25-29 married before age 18 in the Last decade

32 percent to 20 percent

Child Marriage and Early Childbirth (for Mothers) by Age Group

Top Countries

Share of women with first marriage 

before age 18 by age group (Age group 18-22)

Share of women with first 

child before age 18 by age 

group(Age group 18-22)

Niger 76.8 47.1
Chad 68.7 44.8
Bangladesh 59.4 33.7
Mali 59.9 44.9
Guinea 51.1  41
Mozambique 51.5  39
Burkina Faso 49.8 25.2
Malawi 45.9 31.7
India 40(10th) 17.8 (13th)

Share of early child births due to child marriage(%)

India Percentage
Mother 80.2
Child 90.4

India stands third among the 25 countries in the early child birth rates
Reduction in Population Growth Rate from Ending Child Marriage and Early Childbirths

India Percentage
Mother 0.08
Child 0.07

(Source – Global Synthesis Report by World Bank- June 2017)

Highlights of the judgement passed by Justice Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta

  1. If a man has sex with his wife aged between 15 and 18 years, he can be prosecuted for rape, in case the wife complains about the incident within a year.
  2. The ruling cuts through the Article 375 of the IPC that defines rape and now held that the exception in the rape law was arbitrary and was violative of the Constitution.
  3. The apex court said the exception in the rape law was contrary to the philosophy of other statutes and violates the bodily integrity of a girl child.
  4. The ruling paves way for much simpler concept about consent and rules out any ambiguity between Indian Penal Code, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
  5. It is because the IPC Article was contradictory to the child marriage act that puts 18 as the age of marriage for girls and 21 for men.
  6. The IPC exception was also against POCSO as the child protection law says sex with a child below 18 years is an “aggravated penetrative sexual assault”
  7. The bench clarified that it has not dealt with the issue of marital rape as it was not raised before it by respective parties. "

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