Defending the current law that decriminalises marital rape, the Union government on Monday said that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, who is not under 15 years of age, cannot be considered as rape.


Through an affidavit the government directed a division bench comprising Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhigra Sehgal saying that marital rape in India cannot be criminalised due to “traditional social structures” and “social realities” prevailing in the nation.


It further said that the only way to prohibit marital rape is by bringing in “changes in the attitudes of prosecutors and those in society.” Section 375 of IPC protects a husband who has sexual intercourse with his minor wife. It says sexual activity with a girl under 18 is defined as rape, unless she is married to the man and is over 15 years old.


Yesterday, the Centre was seen defending this provision saying, “Although the age of consent is 18 years, the social, economic and educational development in the country is still uneven and child marriages are taking place".


Responding to a petition in the Delhi high court filed by a man whose 20-year-old wife accused him of raping her, the Centre held that while Section 377 criminalises unnatural sex irrespective of marital status, Section 375 defends the husband if his wife is above 15-years-old.