Child marriage - laws should be more stringent

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Represented by Ariba Opeyemi in Abuja at the International Day of the Girl Child, the minister said the United Nations has set October 11 for promoting the rights of girls and addressing the unique challenges they face. Her willingness or consent was of no concern.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch said that the Pakistani government needed to prohibit underage marriage, and remove the confusion between religious interpretations and federal and provincial laws. The ruling, which has removed the discrepancies in the rape law, comes as a victory for all those fighting for child rights and justice and is expected to go a long way in checking child marriages. The rape of a married girl child (between 15 and 18 years) is not rape under the IPC and therefore not an offence in view of Exception 2 to Section 375 thereof but it is an offence of aggravated penetrative sexual assault under Section 5 (n) of the POCSO Act and punishable under Section 6 of that Act.

Pakistan's Senate has struck down legislation governing the minimum age girls can marry, saying a Bill to increase the legal age from 16 to 18 was un-Islamic.

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Interestingly, although the court has categorically stated that it is not dealing with the larger issue of marital rape, Justice Madan B Lokur has held that "Constitutionally, a female has equal rights as a male and any theory that propounds a constitutional myth to the contrary must be demolished." . "Unfortunately, by virtue of Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC, if a girl child between 15 and 18 years of age is married, her husband can have non-consensual sexual intercourse with her, without being penalised under the IPC, only because she is married to him and for no other reason", the apex court explained the discrimination shown to a "married" girl child. "The artificial distinction is discriminatory and is definitely not in the interest of the girl child". This is because of an incongruous provision in the Indian Penal Code that permits intercourse with a girl aged between 15 and 18 years on the grounds of her being married. "India has enacted a law against child sex abuse, but should do much more to enforce the protections", she said.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 is a secular law and must override all personal laws, all attempts being made to secure the objective the enactment aims to achieve. But, the decision hasn't taken an individual's right to sexuality, into consideration. According to 2011 census, around 49.50 lakh married girls were under the age of 18.

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