Even as activists try to ‘annul’ the forced child marriage, India’s convoluted rape laws don’t help.

Child Offender Plays Offended Man sends legal notice to 16 year old wife to resume sexImage for representation
news Crime Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 16:36

A 16-year-old girl in Hyderabad, who returned home after being forced to marry a man more than twice her age, was served a legal notice, asking for her to 'resume' her "conjugal duties".

Conjugal duty, is considered a religious 'obligation' within marriage, to have sexual intercourse on a regular basis.

According to reports, the girl was forced to marry a cousin, who was roughly 20 years older to her, under family pressure, when she was preparing for her Class 10 exam.

"It happened very suddenly. He was more than 35 years old. I didn't know at that time," she told NDTV.

When she moved to her husband's home after her exam, she claimed that she was physically and sexually assaulted on a daily basis.

She returned home to her parents after two months of staying with her husband, following which she received the legal notice.

When TNM contacted the lawyer who served the notice, he said, "The client came to my office and claimed that the girl was 18-years old. He said that she was giving him a lot of trouble and that she had left him and run away. So I drafted the notice accordingly, and made him sign on it."

"We are dependent on the facts of the client in such situations. I don't even know him personally, and got to know him through another client," he added.

The lawyer, after learning that the girl was a minor, said that he would not legally pursue the matter any further.

Achyuta Rao, a child rights activist says, "The 'marriage' is void. Even if the girl is one day younger than 18, it is illegal, and is considered child marriage. If the marriage is consummated, it  is a criminal offence, where the accused can be booked for rape under section 376, besides the POCSO Act."

However, laws relating to child marriage and rape in India are convoluted, as Section 375 of the IPC, states that, "Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape."

While child marriage is illegal, since the victim in this case is 16-years old, the legal process gets complicated.

"The girl went through so much in those two months, but still she is very strong, and has insisted that she will fight for the 'divorce'," Achyuta added. The activists are planning to take steps to annul the 'marriage', on behalf of the girl soon, as she is a minor. They have also approached the Rachakonda Police Commissioner, who has asked for a day's time to file the case.

"We should create more public awareness. There should be a fear of child marriages. The perpetrators should know that they will be caught. For every case that is highlighted, so many go under the radar," Achyuta says.

The girl, who is now pursuing her studies further, also told NDTV, "I want to study and do well on my own merit."