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Historicising child sexual abuse in early modern and modern India: Patriarchal norms, violence and agency of child-wives and young women in the institution of child marriage

Anagol, Padma 2020. Historicising child sexual abuse in early modern and modern India: Patriarchal norms, violence and agency of child-wives and young women in the institution of child marriage. South Asian Studies 36 (2) , pp. 177-189. 10.1080/02666030.2020.1821515
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Abstract

Although child-bride harm was uncovered during the Age of Consent controversy (1890s), no attempt has been made to excavate its origins in Indian history. Rectifying this void, I investigate the phenomena of child sexual abuse in early modern and modern regions of Bengal and Maharashtra. I adopt a female-child centred approach that involves engaging with the perspectives of girls and young women. Some questions raised are: Did a girl have rights? If so, how was her freewill visualised by the state, law and popular culture? What can we glean from women’s discourses through historical time on pre-pubertal sex, conjugality and child-marriage and how are they different from official discourses? In order to cast light on an obscured subject, I widen the archive to include an analysis of devotional poetry, bardic literature, personal narratives, royal chronicles besides, the more conventional media reports, religious and medical texts. The essay reveals how religious punditry combined with the state and popular culture to produce a convoluted concept of female agency that authorised girlbride sexual abuse in child marriage. The study finds more continuities than breaks in the prevalence of child-wife abuse within the institution of child marriage from early modern to modern times.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 0266-6030
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 October 2020
Date of Acceptance: 30 September 2020
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2020 16:16
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/135539

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