Child brides winning the right to refuse sex in India
One of the most far-reaching miracles of our day is the erosion of a centuries-old discrimination against girls. Just two years ago, in a massive win for girls’ rights, the highest court in India passed legislation protecting teenage girls from rape. The new law ruled that married girls between the ages of 15 and 18 have the legal right to press charges against their husbands for unwanted sex.
In a culture where 47% of girls will be married by the time they are 18, this legislation represents a major milestone in the fight to empower women in India. The ruling is particularly impactful to these girls, as many are married to men of their parents’ choosing and not their own. The stigma of pre-marital sex is also a factor. This taboo is so severe that parents often opt to force their daughter to marry her rapist rather than bear the shame of her violation.
Previously, married women of any age were unprotected against rape from their husbands. Though the institution of marriage in India continues to provide cover for abuse against wives over the age of 18, this new legislation topples the idea that women’s rights are always subservient to men’s rights. It provides a precedent for future rulings that can further protect and empower women and girls.
Historically, this planet has not been a particularly friendly place for a girl to determine her own life course. Many cultures continue to deny self-determination to girls, and you don’t have to go back very far in U.S. history to find cases of child brides and forced marriage. The 1962 model penal code in the United States lays out the marital rape exemption, stating: “A male who has sexual intercourse with a female not his wife is guilty of rape if … “ As recently as 1993, some states still viewed marriage as a disqualifier for rape charges. Legal and social attitudes have come a long way in the decades since, but stamping out domestic abuse and healing old familial patterns takes time.
The world has not yet seen the potential of a generation of fully emancipated girls and boys. These youth will require a foundational knowledge of respect and responsibility in order to break free from the traditions that bound their ancestors. At LETS Empower, we believe that women and men are equal partners in the creation of families. We are opening up the conversation worldwide around sex and fertility to reduce unwanted pregnancy, poverty, and trafficking. We are thrilled to witness the shift in awareness in India, and can’t wait to impact many communities there.