Imatges de pÓgina
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If our society had a self-regulating power in any of its relations I could have certainly understood the hesitation felt in respect of State action ............ The religious texts which are supposed to regulate our life are immovably fixed, and we cannot adopt them, or change them, nor better them to suit changing conditions. Our civilization has been smothered by this bondage to past ideas. The only way in which our emancipation can take place, is to withdraw one by one these fetters of so called religious injunctions, and turn them into civil restraints which are more amenable to change and adaptation. This is the weakest point of our social system, and I do not see how we can get rid of it, if we are to abjure all State help in such purely civil matters as fixing the age when a man or woman may be bound in the tie of marriage. The jurisprudence of every other nation, ancient or modern, has always regulated these limits of age, and we must do likewise, if we wish to secure progress in these matters. It is not in fact putting on new chains, but removing old ones, or rather substituting flexible for inflexible bonds, that we seek in advocating interference in the regulation of age limits.

It may be fairly contended that State action can lead to no great results. This is however not a drawback against, but a recommendation for change No sudden elevation of age is desirable or possible. We have a slow progress to make in this matter,if our progress is to be sure. It is only necessary to put the stamp of general approval upon the best of the existing usages and customs. Such an approval will strengthen public opinion, and will secure the growth of education, otherwise so heavily handicapped by the existing customs. We shall also promote true religion, and, above all, we shall really make no innovation, but return to the best traditions of our race, and rehabilitate the mostvenerated texts. For the present it has been ascertained that 10 to 12 for females and 16 to 18 for males is a common age limit, and is not opposed to the Shastras, and is sufficiently in advance of existing usage to justify its adoption as a general law, subject to exceptions in particular castes and localities.

I would not in the first instance go further for the present. I would allow time to develop the action of the other forces at work, before any further change is to be thought of. No practical incovenience will follow from the general enforcement of these moderate limits.

As regards the practical method of proceeding, I would humbly suggest that a commission should be appointed to enquire into local usages, to receive evidence, and to formulate recommendations. I would not make the

I would not make the are limits compulsory in the sense of annulling marriages contracted before the age

had been reached. I would only leave the parties concerned freedom to question their binding character when they come of age, unless they have in the meanwhile consummated the marriage. This freedom has been allowed by law in the Parsi Marriage Act. I would appoint non-official gentlemen of position, Municipal and Local Board Commissioners, Honorary Magistrates and Inamdars &c., as authorities with power to certify as to age, and would lay a small penalty for celebrating marriages without such certificates I would make over the fines to the heads of the castes for their caste purposes, or to Local Boards and Municipalities, whose members, elected by the people, may safely be honoured by the trust of the power of certifying to the age qualification. This arrangement would serve as a self-acting check...............Our people are naturally so law-abiding, that, few would run the risk of celebrating marriages without license. Some difficulty will at first be felt in ascertaining the ages, but this difficulty will not be great as the experience of similar regulations elsewhere is favourable, and it will gradually disappear when men become used to it. Simultaneously with this, the educational authorities may work in their own fields, and after a reasonable notice, confine their honours and distinctions to those, who in addition to their other qualifications, voluntarily submit to the qualification of single life during their college or school course. Such a restraint would be in keeping with the Brahmachari or student's tradition, and people will soon get used to it.............

Our medical texts lay down 16 as the limit of age for feinales, and 24 for males, before legal consummation can take place. I would lower these limits to 14 and 20, and amend the penal law to that effect. Such an amendment might be inoperative in a few cases, but on the whole it will not fail to produce the best results,

In regard to ill assorted marriages, I would lay down 45 as the limit of age for men after which they may not marry young virgins, and the marriage of young husbands with older wives should be strictly prohibited, as being unnatural and mischievous in many respects. In regard to polygamy, the Hindu lawy imposes certain permanent disqualifications on the first wife which must be fulfilled before a man can marry a second wife during the life time of the first. I would revive these restraints, and give them the force of law.

17. VENKUT RANGO KATTI.--The imposition of double fees on (married) candidates when they appear for the matriculation and other examinations, will be, in my humble opinion, a sufficient indication of the contempt with which Government regard early marriage. The suggestion that Government officers should evince personal interest in the matter seems to be too good to be practicable.

18. MOTILAI, LALBHAI.-—The creation and spread of a healthy public opinion is the duty of all educated men in this country, and Government can encourage and help them by bestowal of honours and titles on reformers; by inducements in the shape of prizes and scholarships to male and female students, by money contributions to associations for social reformation, and by establishment and support of institutions for the requisite education of the people. Beyond this no Government interference is, I think, desirable or advisable, except perhaps to show their disapproval of the evil customs under reference, by ruling that no suit will lie for possession of a wife before she is 16 and the husband is of 20 years of age, and by giving some special privileges to remarried widows of approved character. But of all the means to be adopted for eradicating the evils in question, the most effectual will be a proper education of women.

19. RUNCHORELALL CHOTALAL.-I think the first attempt at reform should be to limit the marriageable age of males to 15 or 16 years...... ...... The people of all castes may be invited to show reasons against the increase of the marriageable age.........and their objections might be duly considered before the enactenent of the law. In my opinion the measure would be approved of by almost every intelligent person.....

Taking everything into consideration, I am of opinion that Government should not interfere about the marriageable age of girls.

20. BHOLANATH SARABHAI.--1. Female education. 2. “Associations should be established in different parts of India, opening branches in chief towns. They should be encouraged by local authorities by attending the meetings and showing their sympathy with the noble cause.” 3. Lessons in school books.

21. SAKHARAM ARJUN. --What is wanted is the separation of the marriage (i.e. betrothal) and the consummation into two distinct ceremonies............ The great aim of reformers should be, I think, to unite their efforts to get people to regard marriage and consummation as two essentially distinct ceremonies, and to make them defer the latter till the married couple arrives at maturer years.....

It may be observed here in passing that, if, on the one hand an ordinary native confounds his social customs, which are a combination of personal hygiene and law, and mistakes Hindu Dharma (Hindu religion) for Dharma Shastra (code or science of duties or law), Government, on the other hand, in my humble opinion, have complicated matters by not yet making carefully a proper differentiation between Hindu law, religion, and custom. If a rigid distinction had once been made by the legislature between the Hindu law, religion, and custom, a great many difficulties, which now stifle the growth of reform, might have

been easily removed. If Hindu law is dissociated from Hindu religion, as it properly should be, its absurdities and barbarities are sufficiently glaring to number its days.

If Government is not prepared to directly interfere in the matter, I think, it can safely tread on the lines indicated by the late Lieutenant Governor of Bengal........

“There was one thing, however,said Sir William Muir, “which the law might do, and that was to stipulate that the betrothals made in tender years by third parties should not be enforced as contracts demanding specific performance, unless there was a ratification of the betrothal by the principal contracting parties, after they had arrived at maturer years."

22. S. H. CHIPLONKAR.-As regards the first suggestion (viz.) that the Universities should rule that they would confer their degrees on unmarried students only, I should think it to be quite practicable, and one which our Universities might reasonably be expected to adopt. I do not think there is much force in what Mr. Lee-warner says about such a suggestion being outside the legitimate province of their functions. Until very recently, English Universities did impose such a condition in respect of their fellowships and degrees, and I further understand that a few of them do even now impose such a restriction. If my imformation be correct, I fail to see how it would be ultra vires of our Universities following the same example.

23. RAGUNATH NARAYEN KHOTE.--Approves the sug: gestion that married students should be excluded from Univer. sity examinations.

A student ought to be exclusively a student. He should be free from the trammels of family life and its cares. The Universities are interested in seeing that they give the country, men qualified to lead and enlighten the public.”

24. R. G. BHANDARKAR.-I am of opinion that the University might, on giving 5 years' notice, rule that no married candidate shall be admitted to the matriculation examination.

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