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Defining Girlhood in IndiaA Transnational History of Sexual Maturity Laws$
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Ashwini Tambe

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042720

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042720.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 28 June 2022

Legislating Nonmarital Sex in India, 1911–1929

Legislating Nonmarital Sex in India, 1911–1929

(p.61) 3 Legislating Nonmarital Sex in India, 1911–1929
Defining Girlhood in India

Ashwini Tambe

University of Illinois Press

The third chapter describes how an expanded understanding of girlhood influenced an Indian law restricting child marriage and raising the age of consent. This chapter details changes in legislative politics and in the way Indian legislators appropriated international antitrafficking standards across two decades. It begins by discussing the 1911 Dadabhoy Bill, the first formulation of a distinct age of consent for all nonmarital sex, which was partially provoked by conventions drawn up by the International Society for the Suppression of White Slave Traffic. Next, the chapter examines how Indian Legislative Assembly members in 1922 and 1923-24 responded to the claims S. M. Edwardes made to League of Nations delegates justifying a lower age of consent in India. It then analyzes the 1929 law restricting child marriage, focusing on its effects on sexual consent outside marriage and the resulting anxieties pertaining to parental control. It closes with a fuller analysis of the Report of the Age of Consent Committee and its articulation of parental anxieties. The chapter argues that the 1929 law constraining child marriage, widely considered a key moment of Indian social reform, was facilitated by prior and concurrent measures that fixed a higher age of consent for nonmarital sex. These measures entrenched parental control over daughters’ sexual practices and, ultimately, limited the implications of marriage reform.

Keywords:   child marriage, age of consent, Indian legislation, nonmarital sex

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