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Codes of Misconduct

Codes of Misconduct: Regulating Prostitution in Late Colonial Bombay

Ashwini Tambe
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Codes of Misconduct
    Book Description:

    Against the backdrop of the industrial growth of Bombay, Codes of Misconduct examines the relationship between lawmaking, law enforcement, and sexual commerce. Ashwini Tambe challenges linear readings of how laws create effects and demonstrates that the regulation and criminalization of prostitution were not contrasting approaches to prostitution but different modes of state coercion.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6795-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xxviii)

    One July afternoon in 2004, while conducting an interview with a public health professional in Mumbai about the city’s sex trade, I experienced an uncanny feeling of displacement.¹ I was speaking to Dr. I. H. Gilada, a principal voice in AIDS-control circles in India, at his clinic off Grant Road. As he outlined his proposals for regulating prostitution, I found his words echoing, almost verbatim, those of a doctor called K. S. Patel who had worked at a venereal diseases hospital in the same area in the early 1920s.² I had come across Dr. Patel’s confident recommendations to the colonial...

  5. chapter 1 The Colonial State, Law, and Sexuality
    (pp. 1-25)

    In the nineteenth century, women in India increasingly became direct objects of colonial law. Measures such as banning widow immolation in 1829, allowing widow remarriage in 1856, prohibiting female infanticide in 1870, and raising the age of consent for consummation of marriage to twelve in 1892 constitute a commonly cited narrative of incremental legal reform (Tambe 2000). Interestingly, these reformed practices were often related to widely circulating conceptions about female sexuality: early marriage, for instance, was increasingly seen to fuel sexual precocity among girls, and remarriage for widows was believed to channel their potentially untrammeled sexuality in appropriate directions. A...

  6. chapter 2 A Failed Experiment? The Contagious Diseases Acts in Bombay
    (pp. 26-51)

    The Contagious Diseases Acts have been the object of several insightful historical studies during the past two and a half decades.¹ The astonishing ambition of these laws—of intricately monitoring sexual practices across swathes of the British Empire—make them a standard referent in colonial studies and feminist history. Indeed, the CDA as a topic appears to have been treated exhaustively: scholars have scrutinized the varied political forces that influenced the legislation, such as the colonial military and medical establishment, as well as its repeal, such as early British feminists, missionaries, and reformists.² Nonetheless, one aspect that has been relatively...

  7. chapter 3 Racial Stratification and the Discourse of Trafficking
    (pp. 52-78)

    In reconfiguring Foucault’s history of sexuality, Ann Stoler (1995) notes that any nineteenth-century apparatus of sexuality has to be understood via the imperative of managing whiteness, and that colonial governmentality was fundamentally shaped by the threat of racial disorder. This insight is key to understanding the enforcement of the CDA. While state control of Indian prostitutes proceeded in an unwieldy fashion in the 1870s and 1880s under the Contagious Diseases Acts, the same era nonetheless inaugurated an intense police surveillance of European prostitutes. Indeed, the one dimension of the CDA that met with success in Bombay was the spatial allocation...

  8. chapter 4 Akootai’s Death: Subaltern Indian Brothel Workers
    (pp. 79-99)

    In the early twentieth century, Kamathipura became home to large numbers of Indian women in prostitution. Although European prostitutes, with whom the police socialized, were the hypervisible identifiers of this area in the official imagination, Indian women housed in Kamathipura’s brothels far outnumbered such women. The colonial state viewed Indian prostitutes in these spaces as a de-individuated mass and with a certain willful blindness. It carefully monitored and fostered the presence of European prostitutes but exempted entire strata of Indian women from its coercive protection. This chapter brings to the foreground questions that were sidestepped in police records: What kinds...

  9. chapter 5 Abolition and Nationalism
    (pp. 100-121)

    Episodes such as the Duncan Road murder trial are rarely the sole cause of new phases in legislation. More typically, they play the role of crystallizing public sentiments that already point in an aligned direction. In Bombay, for instance, there were already currents of public opinion and lawmaking that favored abolishing prostitution. Demographic shifts and urban crowding had engendered anxieties about the moral regulation of public spaces. The trial also coincided with the gathering strength of nationalism, whose ideological construction of Indian womanhood presented a ground on which to contest existing colonial policies on prostitution. The details of Akootai’s death...

  10. conclusion The Failed Promise of Laws: Contemporary Reflections
    (pp. 122-130)

    The British colonial period is typically characterized as a time when Victorian standards of restraint reconstituted sexual relations in India. The laws that changed sexual relations in that era, such as those permitting widow remarriage and banning child marriage and homosexuality, all upheld an ideal of desexualized femininity. This book demonstrates that in the case of laws on prostitution, contrary to the presumably Victorian tendencies toward restricting or abolishing prostitution, British colonial administrators not only tolerated but also institutionalized sexual commerce. In the course of ostensibly seeking to curb venereal disease and coercive prostitution, the colonial state instituted an orderly...

    (pp. 131-134)
    (pp. 135-138)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 139-154)
    (pp. 155-174)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 175-179)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 180-180)