Regulationist Measures: Prostitution and Politics in the State of Mysore

  • Jamuna Raj Bangalore University, Bengaluru, India
Keywords: cantonment, civilian space, lock hospitals, prostitution, Syphillis


The paper explores official policies towards Prostitution and the spread of Venereal Diseases in the Cantonment and Mysore Provinces. A medico-military discourse emerged in the Cantonment with the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases among white troopers. Transgressive sex was tolerated despite prostitutes being considered a receptacle of diseases. In not recognizing the dynamics of disease transmission, regulatory measures and race, sex, and class-bias blatantly vilified prostitutes. Though civilian spaces in the State of Karnataka were not as complex, regulations were enforced in tandem with the Cantonment during the colonial rule. Consequently, after the independence, the State’s measures were coincidental with the social purity movement’s censure of Devadasis.


Annual report on the lock hospitals of the Madras Presidency for 1877. Government Press, Madras, 1877. Annual report on the lock hospitals of the Madras Presidency for 1893. Government Press, Madras, 1893. Annual Report on the Lock Hospitals of Madras Presidency for 1877. Indian Medical Department, 1878. General and Revenue Secretariat, Municipal, 1811, File No. 1, Construction of Buildings in Bangalore Cantonment. Letter to Arthur Cole, Acting Resident in Mysore. General and Revenue Secretariat, Municipal, 1881, File No. 1, Military Department. Letter from Chief Secretary to Government. Fort St. George, to A.H Cole, Resident of Mysore. General and Revenue Secretariat, Muzrai, 1900-1901, File No.2, Section V, November 1903. General and Revenue Secretariat, 1913-14 (Legislative) File No.7-13, Sl. No.1-10, Notification dated 20th July 1871. General and Revenue Secretariat, File No. 7-13, Sl. No: 1-10 Regulation of Prostitution in Bangalore City. 1913-14.
Indian Medical Department, Fort St. George, 21st May 1878. Extract from Annual Medical Report of Lock Hospitals of Madras Presidency for the year 1877. Military Department, Fort St. George, No.118 of 1856. Letters to the Honorable The Court of Directors of the East India Company for the year 1856.
Military Department, Proceedings of the Madras Government. 4th August 1873. Military Department. Fort St. George, 1893.
Extract from the Annual Medical Report of the Lock Hospitals, Bangalore, Bellary. Mysore Residency, File No: 164 of 1896. Proceedings of the Mysore Legislative Council, December Session, 1935, p.138
Report of the Mysore Census of 1881, Mysore Government Press, 1884, p.30.
Arnold, D. (1993). Sexually transmitted diseases in nineteenth and twentieth century India. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 69(1), 3-8. doi:10.1136/sti.69.1.3 Banerjee, S. (2000). Dangerous outcast: the prostitute in nineteenth century Bengal. Calcutta: Seagull Books. Chatterjee, R. (1992). The Queen’s Daughters: Prostitutes as an Outcast Group in Colonial India. Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute. Frith, J. (2012). Syphilis-its early history and treatment until penicillin, and the debate on its origins. Journal of Military and Veterans Health, 20(4), 49. Levine, P. (2003). Prostitution, Race and Politics: Policing Venereal Disease in British Empire. New York: Routledge, p.37. Lowndes, F. W. (1882). Hospitals and Lock wards In General Hospitals. London: J & A Churchill, p.29-30
Marsh, J. (2012). Sex & Sexuality in the 19th Century. Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved from http://www. articles/ s/sex-and-sexuality-19th-century/.
Rabinow, Paul (ed) (1984), The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century, The Foucault Reader, Pantheon Books, New York, p.283.
Roberts, N. (1993). Whores in History, Prostitution in Western Society. London: Grafron, p.223.
Rao, S. M. (1936). Modern Mysore from the Beginning to 1868. Higginbothams. Walkowitz, J. R. (1980). Prostitution and Victorian Society: women, class and the state. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.