NEW DELHI, India – On Wednesday, October 11th, the Indian Supreme court ruled that any sexual relationship between a man and his wife between the age of 15 and 18 is a crime. The country’s highest court changed the rape law and declared that sex with an underage wife is an illegal act. According to the Indian Supreme court, the committed offense must be reported by the wife within a year.
Under the current law, the legal age of consent and marriage is 18. In the rural parts of the country, child marriages are not uncommon. Currently, there are more than 26 million child brides in India according to the United Nation’s children agency. Based on the agency’s report, between 2008 and 2014, more than 47% of the girls were married before their 18th birthday. Furthermore, an estimated 18 percent of the girls were married by the age of 15. It is reported that most of the girls were from poor families with little education.
Previous Indian governments have defended the law as they believed the country’s poor social and economic conditions have made child marriage an unfortunate reality. Moreover, early marriage has been a part of the Indian culture though the “guana” ceremony.
Many activists around the country praised the recent decision as a “positive step in the right direction.” A member of the All India Democratic Women’s Association recently stated that “we strongly feel that this decision of the Supreme Court will work in impacting child marriages.”
Although activists still believe that the Indian Supreme Court’s decision is difficult to enforce, many agree that it will have long-lasting consequences.
NEW DELHI, India – The Supreme Court of India stated that the anti-dowry law is being misused in the country. Until dowry harassment charges can be verified, the court has ordered the authorities to stop arresting the accused.
Under the dowry system in India, the bride’s family transfers property or money to her husband as a condition of the marriage.
The practice of dowry, a long tradition in the Indian culture, has been banned since 1961. The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 implemented a tough anti-dowry law in the country. The law allows for immediate arrest of the accused but many have argued that it allows for women to file false cases. The original intent of the law was to help women, but many critics of the law stated that it is being used as “a weapon by disgruntled wives.” Although not many are convicted under this law, thousands of people are arrest every year.
To combat these issues, on July 27th, 2017, the Supreme Court of India ordered the states to establish family welfare committee to address dowry related problems. The court further established that all complaints received by the authorities must be given to the family welfare committee for its review. It is noted that no action can be taken against the husband and the in-laws until a full report is released.
In 2015, the Indian government’s data estimated that around 7,634 women were killed due to dowry-related issues. The centuries-old tradition of dowry continues to be an issue in India. Many anti-dowry proponents have argued that the tradition leaves women vulnerable to material issues which sometimes leads to violence and event death.
LUSAKA, Zambia– Zambian police have been forbidden from marrying foreigners. The Head of Police in Zambia issued a memo on Monday January 23 advising Zambian police to not marry foreigners effective immediately. This ban is put in place in order to protect the Zambian people.
Zambia police in the capital of Lusaka. (Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa)
For police officers who already have foreign spouses have to register their spouses by Monday January 29th. If they do not register their spouses they will face disciplinary action. Many are upset about this law which some are claiming is unconstitutional. However, police spokesperson Esther Katongo defended the order by saying, ““Issues of security are delicate. If not careful, spouses can be spies and can sell the security of the country’’.
She also stated that this law has always been on the books, but given the new security situation in Zambia, it is now being enforced. Action was being taken in order to ensure that police were complying with this previous requirement. Some are criticizing the move saying that instead of worrying about spouses the police should better train their officers to be more professional.
by Yesim Usluca Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish parliament approved a preliminary bill which would clear men accused of raping underage girls if they marry her.
The bill, which was brought to parliament by President Erdogan’s party, was preliminarily approved on the evening of November 17th. The parliament will debate the bill a second time on November 22nd before casting their final vote.
The Turkish government stated that the bill is designed to pardon men only on the basis of sex that is “without force or threat,” and if the offense was committed before November 11, 2016.
There has been strong opposition to the bill in many parts of the country, including by members of parliament, with many protestors stating that it is an encouragement for rape. Critics of the bill declare that it “legitimizes rape and child marriage,” and that it “lets off men who are aware of their crime.” Parliament member Ozgur Ozel stated that “sexual abuse is a crime” which does not require consent. He added that “seeking the consent of a child is something that universal law does not provide for.”
It is anticipated that approximately 3,000 men accused of assaulting a girl under 18 will have their convictions repealed if the bill is passed. On Saturday, November 19th, thousands of people attended a demonstration in Istanbul protesting the bill. The crowds, wielding banners stating “#AKP take your hands off my body,” shouted anti-government slogans, declaring “we will not shut up. We will not obey. Withdraw the bill immediately.” Further mass protests are expected if the bill passes following Tuesday’s vote.
The UN Children’s Fund stated that it was “deeply concerned” over the bill. The Fund’s spokesman indicated that “these abject forms of violence against children are crimes which should be punished as such, and in all cases the best interest of the child should prevail.”
The government has defended the bill by stating that its aim is not to excuse rape, but to “rehabilitate” men who may not have realized the unlawfulness of their sexual relations or to prevent underage girls who have sex from “feeling ostracized by their community.” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated that the bill “is not an amnesty for rape,” and that the country has very “serious punishments for rape.” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag indicated that the bill could help couples who want to marry after engaging in consensual relations. He stated that when a child is born from a non-official union, the mother and child are subjected to financial difficulty because the father will be arrested after the doctor informs the prosecutor.
Turkey has experienced a steep increase in violence against women in the past decade, with 40% of women reporting sexual or physical abuse.
by Yesim Usluca Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
CAIRO, Egypt — An Egyptian court ruled on Thursday, September 8th that an Egyptian citizen who is married to an Israeli woman must be stripped of his citizenship.
Ms. Shaimaa Amin had filed a lawsuit demanding that her brother, who had been living in the United Kingdom for twelve years, be stripped of his Egyptian citizenship on the grounds that he is married to an Israeli woman. Ms. Amin claimed that her brother’s political, religious and social views do not “suit Egyptian society,” and that his marriage constitutes a “threat to Egypt’s national security.”
The Court decided that marriages between Egyptians and Israelis constitute a risk to national security. It further held that this is a serious offense which is a sufficient basis for an individual to lose citizenship. It referenced Article 62 of the Egyptian constitution, which grants personal freedoms, including marriage. The Court stated that despite this Article, citizens are not entitled to freedom from all restrictions or the responsibility to “protect society and the state.” It declared that the defendant should have “worked hard to make his wife and son give up their Israeli nationality and come to live in Egypt.” The defendant, Ms. Amin’s brother, defended his decision to marry an Israeli woman. He stated that, unlike the Arab states, Israel was a defender of human rights that was contributing to fighting terrorism.
Ms. Amin’s lawsuit and the Court’s subsequent holding was in line with, and based on, a June 2010 ruling by the Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court, which ordered the Interior Ministry to strip citizenship from Egyptians married to Israeli women. This holding stated that the Interior Ministry must present each case to the Cabinet, which will then make an individualized decision on stripping citizenship based on whether the man married an “Israeli Arab or Jew.” In 2015, the Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court issued a further ruling based on Egyptian Nationality Law, which mandated the Cabinet and Interior Ministry to strip Egyptian nationality from citizens married to Israelis. Per Article 16 of this Law, the Egyptian government can strip citizens of their nationality to protect Egypt’s national security.