Not by Law Alone
Rama Mehta
DEATH OF A MARRIAGE LAW by J. Duncan M. Derrett Vikas, New Delhi, 1978, 228 pp., 50.00
July-August 1978, volume 3, No 1

Duncan M. Derrett is an excellent survey of marriage laws in India. A Professor of Oriental Laws at the Univer­sity of London, Derrett has given an analytical appreciation of Hindu Mar­riage Law. Being familiar not only with legal aspects of a law but being aware of Indian condition, he has contributed in understanding marriage laws in their social context. The value of this book is mainly for social historians, but also makes interesting reading for anyone who is concerned with laws, governing marriage and divorce. He deals in detail with the various complexities of the law on divorce as it stands today and the contradictions that are inherent in legislation in a population that still lives by values that are traditional and in which the woman is subordinate to men.The Death of a Marriage Law gives a detailed historical survey and in doing so points out the conditions of India at different stages of its social history.

Verrett points out that the social mytho­logy of the 19th and early 20th cen­turies equated Hinduism with the norms of brahminism and brahaminized castes. It, therefore, clearly left out the majority of Indians whose norms of behaviour deviated from Varnaasrama dharma. Because of the dominance of the elite H.S. Gour’s Bill to introduce divorce was rejected several times between 1928 and 1938. Yet at the same time, Baroda where the proportion of brahmins in the population was small, was able to pass the Hindu Act of 1937, permitting divorce.

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