Modern History Simplified: Steps taken for the betterment of the position of Women in India during the British Rule

  1. Abolition of Sati (Regulation of 1829)
    1. The movement against Sati was led by Raja Rammohan Roy.
    2. Regulation 1829 of the Bengal Code: the government declared the practice of sati illegal and punishable by criminal courts as culpable homicide.
    3. First instance, it was applicable in Bengal and then extended to Madras and Bombay presidencies in 1830.
  1. Female Infanticide 
    1. Was a common practice among upper class Bengalis and Rajputs who considered females to be an economic burden.
    2. Bengal Regulations 1795 and 1804: declared infanticide illegal and equivalent to murder.
    3. Regulation of 1870: made it compulsory for parents to register the birth of all babies and provided for verification of female children for some years after birth, particularly in areas where the custom was resorted to in utmost secrecy.
  2. Widow Remarriage
    1. The movement was popularised by Brahmo Samaj and Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidya Sagar who cited Vedic texts to prove that the Hindu religion sanctioned widow remarriage.
    2. Vishnu Shastri Pandit founded the Widow Remarriage Association in the 1850s. In addition, Karsondas Mulji started the Satya Prakash in Gujarati in 1852 to advocate widow remarriage. 
    3. Other proponents were Professor D.K. Karve in western India and by Veerasalingam Pantulu in Madras.
    4. The right of widows to remarriage was also advocated by B.M. Malabari, Narmad (Narmadashankar Labhshankar Dave), Justice Govind Mahadeo Ranade and K. Natarajan among others.
    5. Because of their efforts the Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act, 1856, was passed by Lord Dalhousie which legalised marriage of widows and declared issues from such marriages as legitimate.
  3. Controlling Child Marriage
    1. The relentless efforts of a Parsi reformer, B.M. Malabari, were rewarded by the enactment of the Age of Consent Act (1891).
    2. The Age of Consent Act (1891) forbade the marriage of girls below the age of 12.
    3. The Sarda Act (1930) further pushed up the marriage age to 18 and 14 for boys and girls, respectively.
    4. In free India, the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 1978 raised the age of marriage for girls from 15 to 18 years and for boys from 18 to 21.
  4. Women Education  
    1. Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was associated with no less than 35 girls’ schools in Bengal and is considered one of the pioneers of women’s education.
    2. The Christian missionaries were the first to set up the Calcutta Female Juvenile Society in 1819.
    3. The Bethune School was the first fruit of the powerful movement for women’s education that arose in the 1840s and 1850s. [J.E.D. Bethune was the president of the Council of Education in Calcutta in 1849]. 
    4. Charles Wood’s Despatch on Education (1854) laid great stress on the need for female education. 
    5. In 1914, the Women’s Medical Service did a lot of work in training nurses and midwives.
    6. The Indian Women’s University set up by Professor D.K. Karve in 1916 was one of the outstanding institutions imparting education to women.
    7. In 1916, Lady Hardinge Medical College was opened in Delhi.

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