HL Deb 10 July 1888 vol 328 cc873-5

asked the Secretary of State for India, whether he had received any information from the Viceroy of India on the subject of the reported recent action of the Princes of Rajpootana regarding the Hindoo custom of infant marriage? The noble Earl said the Princes of Rajpootana held the highest rank in Hindoo society in India, and the associations connected with their history not only showed the bravery of the men, but also the heroism of the women. If the reports he had seen were correct the Native Princes of Rajpootana had come forward voluntarily to make the greatest social reform that could be introduced into Hindoo society in India. The custom of infant marriages in India had been productive of greater misery to a greater number of the women of that country than any other custom, and if the Rajpootana Princes had made such alterations in the custom in their own territory as would mitigate the existing evil they deserved the thanks of everyone who was a well-wisher of India for the enlightened view they had taken of this important social question.


said, he was quite sure that not one word had fallen from the noble Earl which was not deserved by the Rajpootana Princes. They were the leaders of the Hindoo race, and any example set by them would, he was sure, have the widest effect throughout India. He was very happy to say that the rumour which had reached the noble Earl was strictly correct. There had been no greater reform made in India, and he looked upon it as one of the greatest advances that had taken place there during the present century. The step which the Rajpootana Princes had taken might lead to changes such as no man living could foresee so far as the health, comfort, and welfare of the native Indians were concerned. Colonel Walter, in October last, addressed a circular to all political officers on the subject of the adoption by the Rajpootana Princes of a set of resolutions regulating the ages at which marriages could take place, and suggested that a large representative committee should assemble in March from each of the States to consider the question. His suggestion met with the heartiest approval of the Chiefs, and at a meeting they, among other things, unanimously passed a rule that in future no girl should be married under the age of 14, and no boy under the age of 18, unless there had been a contract of marriage existing previous to the meeting. This announcement had been received with great satisfaction throughout the country, and he agreed that it was one of the greatest steps in advance that had been taken in India for many years past. The despatch which had come from India on the subject was one of great interest, and if the noble Earl would move for its production he would be very glad to lay it on the Table.


said, he was sure that the intelligence the noble Viscount had given to the House would be received throughout England with most extreme joy.


said, that though he welcomed, as everyone must, the announcement of the noble Viscount, there seemed to him to be one consideration which ought not to be overlooked, and that was the initiative of the Chiefs themselves. All who knew anything of India were aware that it was of great importance that changes should proceed from the Chiefs themselves. Such an event as this, the initiative being taken by such an important class as the Rajpootana Princes, was likely, he thought, to prove a precedent which would work to the permanent interest of the country.

House adjourned at Seven o'clock, to Thursday next, a quarter past ten o'clock.