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      From begums and bibis to abandoned females and idle women : sexual relationships, venereal disease and the redefinition of prostitution in early nineteenth-century India

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      The Indian Economic & Social History Review
      SAGE Publications

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          Abstract

          The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw a proliferation of laws in colonial India which targeted women deemed to be prostitutes. As the number of laws grew, so too did the category of ‘prostitute’. Yet, before the nineteenth century, it would have been difficult to identify many of these women or their activities as criminal, or even immoral. This article examines how such legal boundaries and conceptualisations came to be formulated. It suggests that the ‘prostitute’ category in India was shaped by the repeated failure of the East India Company's surgeons and officers to control venereal disease among the European soldiery. Such attempts at disease control were experimented with from the late eighteenth century and, as this article argues, were keys in the later formulation of the Contagious Diseases Acts. This article traces the decline of long-term, monogamous relationships between European men and Indian women, and the corresponding rise in shorter-term sexual transactions in and around military cantonments. By grounding later legal shifts within the military medical context, we can clearly see the forces behind the social and moral changes surrounding this group of women in the early nineteenth century.

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          Prostitution and Victorian society

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            Sex and the Family in Colonial India: The Making of Empire

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              Sexuality, Obscenity, Community

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                The Indian Economic & Social History Review
                The Indian Economic & Social History Review
                SAGE Publications
                0019-4646
                0973-0893
                January 2009
                May 05 2009
                January 2009
                : 46
                : 1
                : 5-25
                Affiliations
                [1 ]University of Cambridge
                Article
                10.1177/001946460804600102
                f7e7e828-09f1-4049-995b-3ac38f6a7740
                © 2009

                http://journals.sagepub.com/page/policies/text-and-data-mining-license

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