chapter  2
15 Pages

‘Who’s really wicked and immoral, women or men?’

Uneasy classifications, Hindu gender roles and infanticide in late nineteenth-century India
WithDaniel J.R. Grey

This chapter explores the different ways in which colonial commentators negotiated the uneasy and permeable boundaries between infanticide cases in late nineteenth-century India where the sex of a newborn was understood to have been a motivating factor in commission of the crime, as well as in those where it was deemed irrelevant. In 1882, a woman from Buldhana in the Central Provinces published a biting denunciation in Marathi of contemporary attitudes towards women in India, entitled A Comparison between Women and Men. The Female Infanticide Act of 1870 passed by the Government of India was a measure that had, to a greater or lesser extent, been constantly agitated for by colonial critics since the late eighteenth century. For the 1870 Act to be passed and implemented, the colonial authorities had to feel secure enough in their hold over north-west India and its surrounding regions to risk stirring up overt opposition to British rule.