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‘The Body Evidencing the Crime’: Rape on Trial in Colonial India, 1860–1947



The history of rape on trial in colonial India sheds new light on the colonial civilising mission and the claims made by white men about saving brown women from brown men. Through an analysis of almost a century of case law, this article concludes that the modernisation of law and the development of a new medico-legal understanding of rape introduced evidentiary standards that placed a heavy burden on Indian women seeking judicial remedy in colonial courts. The fear imported from Britain of false charges combined with colonial views about Indian culture to make native female complainants doubly dubious. The colonial jurisprudence has survived to devastating effect in postcolonial India and Pakistan in ways that are explored and explained by the author.