Women in Modern India

Modern India refers to the period form 1700 A.D. to 1947 A.D.Women in modern India have largely been influenced by the programs of reform and upliftment which brought about a radical change in their position.

During the British period:

The learning of the English literature by a section of the Indians which helped them to assimilate the western democratic and liberal ideology, an ideology subsequently utilized by them to start social and religious reform movements in India.Prior to this period, the status of women was in an unpromising state.

  • The idea of imparting education to women emerged in the British period.
  • After the Bhakti Movement, the Christian Missionaries   took interest in the education of the girls.
  • The Hunter Commission too emphasized on the need for female education in 1882.
  • The Calcutta, Bombay and Madras institutions did not permit the admission of girls till 1875.
  • It was only after 1882 that girls were allowed to go for higher education.
  • Since then, there has been a continuous progress in the extend of education among females.

At the end of the Nineteenth Century women in India suffered from disabilities like:

  • Child marriage,
  • Practice of polygamy,
  • Sale of girls for marriage purposes,
  • Severe restrictions on widows,
  • Non access to education
  • Restricting oneself to domestic
  • Childbearing functions.

Social Laws:

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.

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.

Female Infanticide:

It was particularly in vogue in Rajputana, Punjab and the North Western Provinces.

  • Colonel Todd, Johnson Duncan, Malcolm and other British administrators have discussed about this evil custom in detail
  • 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.

Purdah System

The condition of women among the peasantry was relatively better in this respect. Purdah was not so much prevalent in Southern India.Voices were raised against the practice of Purdah during the 19th and 20th century.

  • 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 Next to the issue of women emancipation, the caste system became the second most important issue of social reforms.
  • In fact, the system of caste had become the bane of Indian society.


The sati system was one of the worst systems that were practiced before the independence revolt in 1857. It is the system in which the girl used to die with her husband in case the husband dies before the girl.

  • It was a social funeral practice among some Indian communities in which a recently widowed woman would immolate herself on her husband’s funeral
  • From about 1812, the Bengali reformer Raja Rammohan Roy started his own campaign against the practice.
  • On 4 December 1829, the practice was formally banned in the Bengal Presidency lands, by the then•governor general, William Bentick.