New Delhi, Oct 13: The Supreme Court‘s October 11 ruling which stated that intercourse between a man and his wife under 18 years of age will be considered as rape has sparked a fresh debate on the rights of women, female sexuality and consensual sex between adolescents, the social realities. The women’s rights activists have been debating on how the government and courts would now deal with these social realities, that the apex court seemed to have ignored.

Although gender rights activists have welcomed the SC ruling saying that the recent ruling might reduce the increasing number of child marriages, TOI reported. But, the decision hasn’t taken an individual’s right to sexuality, into consideration.

Rehana Adib, a woman’s rights activist working with Astitva, told TOI that the Supreme Court has failed to recognise an individual’s right to sexuality. “While it is true that 18 years is accepted as the age of consent, it is also true that adolescents exploring their sexuality should not be deemed criminals,” she said.

Brinda Karat said that the SC ruling only considered a particular aspect of child marriage in which children are forcibly married off at a young age. “What is reprehensible and hypocritical is the approach of the Centre, which seems more committed to protect the institution of marriage rather than the interests of minors,” Karat added.

While pointing out the consensual sex between youths, Karat said, “If the girl is 16 and the boy around the same age, to treat such a relationship as statutory rape, and for the boy to be deemed a criminal and rapist is wrong.” She added that the apex court must consider such instances and come up with a solution for all. The Indian National Congress (INC) too questioned government’s standing on the SC ruling.

The SC ruling read: “…In our opinion, sexual intercourse with a girl below 18 years of age is rape regardless of whether she is married or not,” the court said adding: “The exception carved out in the IPC creates an unnecessary and artificial distinction between a married girl child and an unmarried girl child and has no rational nexus with any unclear objective sought to be achieved. The artificial distinction is discriminatory and is definitely not in the interest of the girl child.”