Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Age of Consent Act, 1891

11 साल की बंगाली लड़की फूलमनि का आज से लगभग 120 साल पहले उसके पति ने बलात्कार (जबरन सेक्स) किया, जिससे उसकी मौत हो गई. 'हिंदू धर्म को भ्रष्ट करने पर तुले' अंग्रेजों ने इसके बाद एज ऑफ कंसेंट एक्ट 1891 लाया, जिसमें लड़की के साथ सहमति से सेक्स
करने की न्यूनतम उम्र 10 साल से बढ़ाकर 12 साल करने की व्यवस्था की गई. "लोकमान्य" तिलक समेत पोंगापंथियों ने इसका विरोध इस आधार पर किया था कि यह हिंदू धर्म परंपरा के खिलाफ है क्योंकि शादी तो रजस्वला होने से पहले होनी चाहिए. तिलक के बारे में यह तथ्य सभी जानते हैं. लेकिन अगर विद्यार्थी तिलक की जीवनी के बारे में पूछे गए सवाल के जवाब में यह लिखे तो पक्का FAIL होगा. ....Dilip Mandal

Age of Consent Act, 1891

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Age of Consent Act, 1891 (Act X of 1891)
British Raj Red Ensign.svg
British India under Crown rule
An Act to amend the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure,1882.
Enacted by Governor-General of India in Council
Date enacted 19 March 1891
Legislation history
Bill Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1882 amendment bill
Bill published on 9 January 1891
Introduced by Sir Andrew Scoble
Second reading March, 1891
The Age of Consent Act, 1891, also Act X of 1891, was a legislation enacted in British India on 19 March 1891 which raised the age of consent for sexual intercourse for all girls, married or unmarried, from ten to twelve years in all jurisdictions, its violation subject to criminal prosecution as rape.[1][nb 1] The act was an amendment of the Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 375, 1882, ("Of Rape"),[nb 2] and was introduced as a bill on 9 January 1891 by Sir Andrew Scoble in the Legislative Council of the Governor-General of India in Calcutta.[2] It was debated the same day and opposed by council member Sir Romesh Chunder Mitter (from Bengal) on the grounds that it interfered with orthodox Hindu code, but supported by council member Rao Bahadur Krishnaji Lakshman Nulkar (from Bombay) and by the President of the council, the Governor-General Lord Lansdowne.[2][3][nb 3]
While an 1880 case in a Bombay high court by a child-bride, Rukhmabai, renewed discussion of such a law, the death of an eleven-year-old Bengali girl, Phulomnee, due to forceful intercourse by her 35 year old husband in 1889, necessitated intervention by the British.[4] The act was passed in 1891. It received support from Indian reformers such as Behramji Malabari and women social organisations and was opposed by Hindu nationalists including Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The law was never seriously enforced and it is argued that the real effect of the law was reassertion of Hindu patriarchal control over domestic issues as a nationalistic cause.[5]


Passage of legislation

In 1880, Rukhmabai, a 22-year-old woman was taken to Bombay high court by her husband Dadaji as she refused to recognise their marriage rights. She was married as a child to him and argued that their marriage is not binding after 11 years of separate living. She eventually lost the case.[6] This trial is believed to be one of the precursors for the passage of this legislation.[7] The death of an 11-year-old Bengali girl Phulomnee after being brutally raped by her 35-year-old husband Hari Mohan Maitee in 1889 served as a catalyst for its legislation[5][8]
While Hindu law permitted intercourse with minors, colonial law considered sex with wives only under ten as rape. Therefore, Hari Mohan Maitee was acquitted on charges of rape, but found guilty on causing death inadvertently by a rash and negligent act.[4]
A committee consisting of influential British and Anglo-Indian statesmen established in London had submitted recommendations to the colonial government including the change in age of consent. The law was signed on 19 March 1891 by the government of Lord Lansdowne raising the age of consent for consummation from ten to twelve years.[6][9]


Behramji Malabari, a Parsi reformer and a journalist from Bombay advocated for this legislation. He published his messages in "Notes on Infant marriage and enforced widowhood" in 1884. Although a Parsi, he claimed to be as critical of Hindu customs and domestic practices as the British.
Though women were not consulted for determining the effect of child-marriage, women in Bombay presidency including Rukhmabai and Pandita Ramabai made a cogent case for the ban on child-marriage in their magazines and social reform organisations. Anandi Gopal Joshi, a Maharashtrian woman who also happened to be the first female medical doctor in India advocated interference of the British Government in child marriage.[7]


The bill, however, provoked a powerful Hindu orthodox backlash. Opposition to the bill in Maharashtra was led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Poona Sarvajanik Sabha in alliance with Poona revivalists, who often invoked Hindu, Brahman and Maratha glory. Tilak opposed the bill on the grounds that this was not an issue for the British but Hindus to decide.[6][10] It was strongly opposed in Bengal as well and it is believed that the bill radicalised the nationalist movement in Bengal.[7]
Orthodox Hindus argued that it violated Hindu rite "garbhadhan," which obligated Hindu girls to have intercourse with her husband within sixteen days of her first period.[4]

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