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Locating the MedicalExplorations in South Asian History$
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Rohan Deb Roy and Guy N.A. Attewell

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199486717

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199486717.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 07 December 2021

Sociological Description and the Forensics of Sexuality

Sociological Description and the Forensics of Sexuality

(p.23) 1 Sociological Description and the Forensics of Sexuality
Locating the Medical

Durba Mitra

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyses how typologies of deviant female sexuality shaped medico-legal narratives of abortion in colonial eastern India. I argue that forensic medicine shaped normative understandings of Indian women through a circular logic that united sociological categories—including Hindu widow, child-bride, and prostitute—with detailed assessments of women’s physical anatomy. Medico-legal texts on abortion extended beyond claims to legal veracity, constituting new authoritative forms of knowledge that brought together sociological and scientific methods to comprehend the potential dangers of women’s sexuality. I explore how the medico-legal science of abortion shaped the rise of invasive colonial practices that mandated involuntary genital examinations of women. Medico-legal narratives of abortion characterized a wide range of women outside of the domain of companionate marriage as socially deviant, unchaste, and potentially criminal.

Keywords:   Forensic Medicine, deviant female sexuality, Hindu widow, child-bride, prostitute, Abortion, Criminal, Ethno-scientific knowledge, anatomy, Medico-legal, companionate marriage, unchaste

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