§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
asked the Under Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been drawn to the statement made by Dewan Ragunatha Rao regarding the existing state of the law in India with reference to infant marriages, and to his statement of a recent instance where "a child wife, aged eight years, was driven to attempt suicide rather than continue to submit herself any longer to the capricious tyranny and odius intimacy of her so-called husband, aged 47 years"; and whether Her Majesty's Government will communicate with the Indian Government and recommend some restrictions on child marriages?
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir J. GORST, ) Chatham
The attention of the Government of India has long been directed to the evils which arise from infant marriages in India, and they have made and will continue to make, all such efforts to correct those evils as are consistent with the pledge of the British Government to respect the religious am social customs of all classes of Her Majesty's Indian subjects. I may remind the House that one satisfactory result of these efforts is to be found it the Resolution of the Rajputana Chiefs in March, 1888 (quoted in a House of Lords Return of the 20th July, 1888 No. 227), as follows:—As a rule, boys and girls are married at an early age, notwithstanding that the evils of such a custom are well known to all, and need no description. In inviting attention to the subject, it seems proper to lay down that boys and girls should not be married before the age of 18 and 14 respectively. As regards engagements concluded before this date, the marriage can take place as soon as the girl completes 14 years, irrespective of the boy's age.