'Oriental sore' or 'public nuisance': the regulation of prostitution in colonial India, 1805-1889

M. Satish Kumar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter argues that prostitutes exhibited a contested, discursive identity in the colonial mentality, which led to their spatial bounded-ness and confinement. The Police Raj served as a metaphor for the colonial regime. The chapter aims to reconstruct the spaces and regulatory measures of prostitution and thereby chart its historical geography in colonial India. Consequently, prostitution as understood within a largely liberal western, post-colonial construct has a completely different cultural connotation to the Indian context. Prostitution as a discursive domain had a marginal place in the cultural topography of the colonial empire. Colonial discourses were closely intertwined with medical discourse. Prostitution was also looked upon as a necessary social evil. However in the colonial period prostitution was branded as a crime to be codified regulated and controlled. Colonialism gradually led to the institutionalization of a hierarchical system in both the civilian and military spaces of prostitution.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication(Dis)Placing Empire. Renegotiating British colonial geographies
EditorsMichael M. Roche, Lindsay J. Proudfoot
PublisherAshgate Publishing Ltd
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781315264189
ISBN (Print)9780754642138, 9781138274686
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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