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Programmes for Women and their Impact:The Hindu Widows Remarriage Act, 1856

From Smriti period onwards, widows were not permitted to remarry. According to Manu, a widow who marries again brings disgrace on herself; she should, therefore, be excluded from the seat of her lord. The 1856 Act removed all legal obstacles to the marriage of Hindu widows.

The object was to promote good morals and public welfare. The Act declares that the remarriage of a widow whose husband is dead at the time of her second marriage is valid and no issue of such marriage will be illegitimate. In case the remarrying widow is a minor whose marriage has not been consummated, the consent of father, mother, grandfather, and elder brother or nearest male relative is required.

Any marriage contracted without such consent is void. However, if the marriage has been consummated, it will not be declared void. The Act forfeits the widow her right of maintenance out of the estate of her first husband.