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TN Textbook Class XIl History SIVA PRASAD
EDUCATIONAL AND SOCIAL REFORMS
Social Laws Concerning Women The condition of women, by the time the British established their rule, was not encouraging. . Several evil practices such as the practice of Sati, the Purdah system, child marriage, female infanticide, bride price and polygamy had made their life quite miserable. The place of women had come to be confined to the four walls of her home. The doors of education had been shut for them. From economic point of view also her status was miserable. There was no social and economic equality between a man and woman. . A Hindu woman was not entitled to inherit any property. Thus, by and large, she was completely dependent on men. US
Social Laws Concerning Women . The first effort in the direction of women was the enactment of law against the practice of Sati during the administration of Lord William Bentinck. . Female infanticide was another inhuman practice afflicting the 19.century Indian society. It was particularly in vogue in Rajputana, Punjab and the North Western Provinces. Factors such as family pride, the fear of not finding a suitable match for the girl child and the hesitation to bend before the prospective in-laws were some of the major reasons responsible for this practice. T herefore, immediately after birth, the female infants were being killed either by feeding them with opium or by strangulating or by purposely neglecting them. Some laws were enacted against this practice in 1795, 1802 and 1804 and then in 1870. However, the practice could not be completely eradicated only through legal measures. Gradually, this evil practice came to be done away through education and public opinion.
Widow Remarriage Many social reformers to make sincere efforts to popularize widow remarriage by writing in newspapers and contemporary journals. . Prominent among these reformers were Raja Rammohan Roy and Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar. They carried out large scale campaigns in this regard mainly through books, pamphlets and petitions with scores of signatures. . In July 1856, J.P. Grant, a member of the Governor-General's Council finally tabled a bill in support of the widow remarriage, which was passed on 13 July 1856 and came to be called the Widow Remarriage Act, 1856.
Child Marriage . The practice of child marriage was another social stigma for the women. . In November 1870, the Indian Reforms Association was started with the efforts of Keshav Chandra Sen. A journal called Mahapap Bal Vivah (Child marriage: The Cardinal Sin) was also launched with the efforts of B.M. Malabari to fight against child marriage. . In 1846, the minimum marriageable age for a girl was only 10 years. In 1891, through the enactment of the Age of Consent Act, this was raised to 12 years. In 1930, through the Sharda Act, the minimum age was raised to 14 years. After independence, the limit was raised to 18 years in 1978.
Purdah System . Similarly, voices were raised against the practice of Purdah during the 19th and 20th century . The condition of women among the peasantry was relatively better in this respect. Purdah was not so much prevalent in Southern India. Through the large scale participation of women in the national freedom movement, the system disappeared without any specific legislative measure taken against it.
Struggle against the Caste System and the related Legislation The caste system was primarily based on the fourfold division of society viz. Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishyas and Shudras. .On account of their degradation in their social status, the Shudras were subjected to all kinds of social discrimination. In the beginning of the 19th century the castes of India had been split into innumerable sub- castes on the basis of birth . In the meantime, a new social consciousness also dawned among the Indians. Abolition of' untouchability became a major issue of the 19th century social and religious reform movements in the country. . Mahatma Gandhi made the removal of untouchability a part of his constructive programme. He brought out a paper, The Harijan, and also organised the Harijan Sevak Sangh.
Struggle against the Caste System and the related Legislation Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar dedicated his entire life for the welfare of the downtrodden. In Bombay, he formed a Bahiskrit Hitkarini Sabha in July 1924 for this purpose. Later, he also organised the Akhil Bharatiya Dalit Varg Sabha to fight against caste oppression. Jyotirao Phule in Western India and Shri Narayana Guru in Kerala respectively established the Satya Sadhak Samaj and the Shri Narayana Dharma Partipalana Yogam to include self-esteem among the downtrodden.
Struggle against the Caste System and the related Legislation . In the Madras Presidency also the beginning of 20th century witnessed 20th oaen the rise of Self-respect vaso the the rise of Self-respect Movement of Periyar E.V.R. . In order to eradicate this evil practice many other individual andd institutional efforts were also made. These movements were directed mainly in removing the disabilities suffered by Harijans in regard to drawing of water from public wells, getting entry into temples and admission into schools.