Social Legislations in India

Till 1813 A.D. British authorities also followed a policy of non-interference in the religious, social and cultural life of the country. But after 1813 A.D. they took active steps to transform Indian society and culture.

The official British efforts at reforming Indian society of its abuses were on the whole meagre and therefore bore little fruit. The weakness and decay of Indian Society was evident and clear to educated Indians who started to work systematically for their removal.

They were no longer willing to accept the traditions, beliefs and practices of Hindu society simply because they had been observed for centuries.

The impact of Western ideas gave birth to new awakening. The change that took place in the Indian social scenario is popularly known as the Renaissance.


The Indian society was plagued with a number of social and religious evils that led to deterioration of the society to magnanimous extent. Some of these problems are:

  • Caste intolerance
  • Illiteracy
  • Female infanticide
  • Prohibition of widow remarriage
  • Child marriage
  • Sati
  • Untouchability
  • Kullinism



The biggest achievement of the British was the outlawing of the practice of Sati in 1829 A.D. when William Bentick made it a crime to associate in any way, the burning of widow on her husband’s pyre; earlier the British rulers were afraid of arising anger of the orthodox Indians.

It was only after Ram Mohan Roy and other enlightened Indians and the missionaries, who tried to reform the society, the government agreed to take this humanitarian step.

Many Indians in the past, including Akbar and Aurangzeb etc. had made unsuccessful attempts to suppress this evil practice. But only Bentick succeeded in outlawing this practice.


The practice of killing female children at the time of their birth had prevailed among some of the Rajput clans and other castes, because of the paucity of young men who died in large numbers in warfare. The prevalence of custom of dowry was also a reason for female infanticide.

Laws prohibiting female infanticide had been passed in 1795 A.D. and 1802 A.D., but they were enforced only by Bentick and Hardings. With the ban on this practice, infanticide disappeared gradually.


Child marriage was also a common affair at that time. Many of them had to live their life in isolation in case of death of their husbands.

Ishwar Chand Vidyasagar started a campaign for widow remarriage and in this campaign; Raja Ram Mohan Roy also actively supported him.

With their efforts, Widow Remarriage Act was passed in 1956 A.D. Though its practice implications were negligible, but it tried to change the old prevailing dogmatic notion.


Education was receiving more attention in 19thy century, as it was very powerful tool for changing dogmatism of Indian society. Introduction of printing press revolutionized the educational institution of India.

This educational atmosphere started the work and this became the basis of modern education. Thus pressure was set on the government to open educational institutions.

All this resulted in the awakening of Indians. Love for independence and patriotism took birth in the mind and heart of Indians.

    • In 1929 A.D. Sharda Act was passed which made child marriage illegal.
    • In 1872 A.D. inter-caste marriage was made legal.

These reform movements strengthened the stream of National Consciousness. Caste was now considered to be an obstacle to social progress.

The Indian society started getting rid of many evils, though it took time. The social evils were attacked and people adopted a total and collective attitude in attacking these social legislations.


All these reforms led to the upliftment of the society and especially of women. The goal of male reformers was progress. Women also experienced increased opportunities for the expression of their individuality.

Paralleling this change was the establishment of new educational, religious and social institutions. Many of the “new women” were educated in their homes and then sent to girl’s schools.

In a nutshell, all the reforms brought by western educated intellectuals through various legislations in 19th century freed the Indian society from degrading moral, religious and social shackles.