A child rape survivor stands in her home, in Uttar Pradesh, India, 2016.

India’s Supreme Court has struck down a legal clause that allowed men to engage in non-consensual marital sex with girls as young as 15.

Wednesday’s landmark decision, which coincided with International Day of the Girl Child, also raised the age of consent for all women to 18.

“In our opinion sexual intercourse with a girl below 18 years of age is rape regardless of whether she is married or not,” read the ruling.

“The exception carved out in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) creates an unnecessary and artificial distinction between a married girl child and an unmarried girl child and has no rational nexus with any unclear objective sought to be achieved.”

Jayna Kothari, who argued for Child Rights Group, an NGO that works to prevent child marriage, told CNN the ruling will create a “uniformity of laws”.

“If you do not criminalize sexual intercourse within marriage with a girl that is under 18, you’re implying that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) is not worth enforcing. You’re allowing marriages with girls that are minors but you’re not doing anything about it.”

Child marriage is illegal in India, but remains widespread throughout the country, especially in rural areas. According to a 2016 report by UNICEF, up to three million girls under the age of 18 are married in India every year.

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SOURCE: CNN, Manveena Suri