In a bid to protect the rights of child brides, India’s Supreme Court has abolished a legal clause that allowed men to engage in non-consensual marital sex with girls below 18 years.

According to Jayna Kothari who argued for Child Rights Group, an NGO that works to prevent child marriage during the proceedings, Wednesday’s landmark ruling which coincided with the International Day of the Girl Child would 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,” Kothari said.

Although child marriage has been criminalized in India, it remains widespread throughout the country especially in rural areas where an estimated three million girls under the age of 18 are given out in marriage annually.