Sati – A Reflection on Political Change

I believe that there is an ancient Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

We are certainly living in interesting times politically at present. One of the many unanswered questions in the ether is what will become of all the European laws currently in force in the UK. I have heard experts express a variety of opinions ranging from they will all lapse when we leave the EU through to every laws will remain in place whatever happens – with almost every position between these two. What is clear is that few people actually thought through what Brexit would mean.

It seems that there is nothing new in this and I came across a reminder whilst researching Sati for Bowrey’s biography. Sati (also called suttee) is the practice among some Hindu communities by which a recently widowed woman either voluntarily, by use of force or by coercion commits suicide following her husband’s death. The best known form of sati is when a woman burns to death on her husband’s funeral pyre.

According to Mala Sen’s Death by Fire: Sati, Dowry Death and Female Infanticide in Modern India, this practice was outlawed by the East India Company in 1829 during their rule of India. It had been assumed that the law had remained on the statute books after India became independent. When a case of Suti hit the headlines in September 1987, it was declared by the Law Secretary that the1829 Act was only a regulation passed by the East India Company and could not apply to the present case. A new Ordinance was quickly passed outlawing the practice again.

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