During the 1940s and 1950s, India witnessed major transitions in the political, social, and cultural spheres. As the country embarked upon the path of modernization, there was a felt need to bring about legislation that would comprehensively reform the age-old customary Hindu laws so that they would be in accordance with the vision of an egalitarian and a secular structure envisaged by the leaders of modern India. The reform initiative, however, faced strong opposition from the entrenched orthodoxy, and triggered a nation-wide debate.
Exploring this significant episode of Indian social history, this book attempts to unravel the formative process of family law by examining the discourse surrounding the Hindu Code Bill in a historical perspective. Revisiting the communicative processes around the Bill, the book provides an in-depth account of the intense debates that took place in and outside the legislature involving political groups, social associations, religious organizations, legal associations, and women's groups.
Placing the debate in a historical continuum, the author traces the genesis of the Hindu Code Bill by exploring the linkages of late eighteenth century initiatives of colonial administration, the efforts of eighteenth-century social reformers, and the contribution of the Indian national movement and women's organizations in early twentieth century.
The book also analyses the role of Nehru, Ambedkar, B.N. Rau, and other prominent personalities in the promotion of gender justice. It argues that while effective implementation of enabling legal provisions were impeded by deeply entrenched patriarchal structures in independent India, the debate contributed towards a gradual transformation of the Indian social consciousness, and towards the promotion of gender justice in Indian society.
This pioneering work will be useful to teachers and students of women's studies, law, history, sociology, and cultural studies.