The Age of Marriage, Regulation of Sex Work in Colonial India and More With Dr. Ashwini Tambe

Nov 14, 2022


In this episode, gender studies scholar, Dr. Ashwini Tambe talks to us about debates around girlhood, age of sexual consent, and state regulation of commercial sex work in colonial India.

‘In Perspective’ is The Swaddle’s podcast series where academics reveal little-known facts about Indian history, society and culture. 

Please note that the word ‘prostitution’ is used in this podcast because it is historically specific to that time. The practice being referred to is commercial sex work.


00:00:54:18-Why has the minimum age for sexual relations been such a contested issue around the world?

00:03:11:20- If we specifically look at the case of India, what arguments have been made regarding the legal definition of ‘girlhood’ when it came to non-marital sex in the 20th century? What kind of contradictions did we see around the definition of girlhood for sexual relations within and outside of marriage?

00:05:47:22- Was the difference between the age of consent (or the age of sex outside marriage) and the age of marriage a conscious choice, made after much public debate and discourse, or was it something that happened because it was not thought through enough? 

00:09:32:12- What were the circumstances that led to the legal age of marriage being raised to 18 at the end of the 20th century? What factors played a role here, especially in regards to state policy on birth control?

00:15:29:19- What kind of debates are we seeing around the age of marriage in contemporary India, and why are feminists arguing in favour of reducing the age of both sexual consent and marriage? 

00:19:24:02- How was the Contagious Diseases Act introduced in colonial India, and how was it used to control sex work in colonial India from 1860 to 1890? How did the treatment towards European and Indian sex workers differ?

00:29:24:22- How did debates around Indian, British and East European commercial sex workers become a sight for arguments around contesting nationalism and national pride in colonial India?


The latest in health, gender & culture in India -- and why it matters. Delivered to your inbox weekly.