Discuss the various social legislations enacted in India in 19th century for improving the conditions of women. Was there any remarkable impacts of these legislations? Elucidate.

From a precautionary and indifferent attitude towards social issues in India, the British in the 19th century due to the efforts of Indian intelligentsia made serious efforts to bring about a change in the lives of women.

  • Some of the social legislations introduced in the 19th century are as follows-
  • William Bentinck enacted the Bengal Sati Regulation in 1829 to curb the inhuman practice of sati.
  • Female infanticide was rampant in the 19th century India. With respect to it, regulations prohibiting infanticide had been passed in 1895 and 1802. However, the efforts were seriously enforced by Bentinck and Hardings.
  • The Hindu Widows Remarriage Act was passed in 1856. It gave equality to women on the same footing as men to remarry on being widowed.
  • The Age of Consent Act was passed in 1891 which rose the marriageable age for women to 12.
  • A law passed in 1872 sanctioned inter-caste and inter-communal marriages.
  • With respect to woman education-
  1. In 1819 Calcutta female juvenile society set up by Christian society.
  2. 1849 Bethune school Calcutta by Bethune.
  3. The 1854 Wood’s Dispatch on education laid emphasis on woman education.

Definitely there was a positive impact of the social legislations. The efforts led to the emancipation of women.
The impact of the efforts of the reforms is most evident in the National Movement, wherein there was large number of women participation. The role of women like Captain Laxmi Sehgal of Indian National Army, Sarojini Naidu, Annie Besant, Aruna Asaf Ali and many others was extremely important in the freedom struggle. Women now came out of the purdah and took up jobs.
Also, the first lawful Hindu widow remarriage among the upper castes in our country was celebrated in Calcutta on 1856 which was attended by Vidyasagar.


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