Lawmaking was one of the most complex tropes for establishing colonial power in nineteenth century India. While the gendered violent cultures of the empire were brought within the ambit of police and judicial scrutiny and reprimanded, it became necessary to justify ‘intervention’ by reconfiguring the indigenous law through scriptures. This chapter intends to revisit and recontextualise the legislative debates which pertained to the issue of Sati and child marriage. The evidential and textual components of lawmaking were fused with the notion of the white man’s burden to save brown women from brown men. Sati Regulation 1829 of the Bengal Code, was passed on December 4, 1829. It was a regulation for declaring the practice of Sati, or of burning or burying alive the widows of Hindus, illegal and punishable by the criminal courts. Secondly, the debate on child marriage involved cases of death of Hindu child wife due to forced cohabitation by the husband. It resulted in the passage of the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929, which fixed the age of marriage for girls at 14 years and boys at 18 years. Thirdly, my chapter explores the issue of murder of prostitutes in colonial India. Although the colonial state dealt mainly with the issue of licensing and regulation of prostitutes regarding space, the colonial police was faced with a greater challenge when the brutalities within the brothel homes began to surface. Through a 1917 case study of murder of Akootai, a prostitute in Bombay, this section will build on the notion of space and scales of the empire. In all these three issues of gender-based violence in colonial India – the assemblage of evidence and opinions played a vital role. The multidimensionality of women’s issues is striking as the discussion spread across India and England.
This chapter contributes to the overlapping categories of gendered violence that this book sets out to explore. Sati can be characterised as institutional/social and collective violence; the killing of the child wife can be characterised as institutional/social and an individual and sexual form of violence. Crime on prostitutes as understood here remains largely a form of institutional and sexual violence.