Growing Up Sexually

World Reference Atlas (Oct., 2002)


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Janssen, D. F. (Oct., 2002). Growing Up Sexually. Volume I: World Reference Atlas.

Interim report. Amsterdam, The Netherlands






India, Pakistan, Bangladesh

Bangladesh, India, Pakistan


Ethnographic Index

Abor, Andamanese (Onge), Nimar Bahalis, Baiga, Bengali, Brahmans, Chamars, Garos, Lepcha, Lingayats, Lodha, Hill Maria, Hunsa, Muria, Nagas, Nayar, Nicorbarese, Purum, Rājpūts, Pashtun, Punjabi, Santals, Hill Saoras, Sinhalese, Telugu, Todas, Uttar PradeshVeda



Contents of Section [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


India, Pakistan, Bangladesh.. 1


India (Thematics. 2)

India  20(Ethnographics)

Additional References: India  33


Pakistan  33

Bangladesh  37


Index to Section: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh  39


Notes   39



India: Thematics [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index] [IES]



Generalia [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


As for sexual behaviour, "almost no information is available on the contemporary situation among any of the tribal groups" (Nag, 1995:p294)[1]. Elwin, at least, already observed the gradual erosion of the ghotul institution due to Hindu intrusion of the Muria territory.




"Child" Prostitution, With a Specific Reference to Age [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


According to Dr. Jon E. Rhode, UNICEF representative in India, "child prostitution is socially acceptable in some sections of Indian society through the practice of Devdasi [[2]]. Young girls are given to the "gods" and they become a religious prostitute. There are believed to be around 3,300 devdasis in Belguam area alone. Devdasi is banned by the Prohibition of Dedication Act of 1982". Over 100,000 "child" prostitutes are estimated to be operative in India's major cities[3]. Half of the child prostitutes is said to be of Nepalese background. The average age of Nepalese girls entering an Indian brothel is said to be 10-14 years, some 5,000 to 7,000 of them said to be trafficked between Nepal and India annually[4]. According to some statistics[5], 10,000 Bangladeshi "children" are employed in brothels in Bombay and Goa.

The Jogin system[6] is based on the traditional belief in Andhra Pradesh, India, that evil over the family or the village can be avoided by dedicating a girl in the family to be a Jogin. Such a girl will be married to the god Potharaju when she is between five and nine years old. As soon as she reaches puberty she becomes the exclusive concubine of the feudal gentry in the village. Girls would be lured into undergoing the Jogini initiation at age seven[7].


[Additional refs.: Compendium on Child Prostitution. Compiled by Socio Legal Information Centre for UNICEF Maharashtra. Collection of 1996 newspaper clippings, found here; Child Prostitution: The Ultimate Abuse. Report on the National Consultation on Child Prostitution, November 18-20, 1995, New Delhi. YMCA / ECPAT / UNICEF. Found here]



Devadasis, Joginis, Basavis, etc., with a Special Reference to Age [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


A tradition older than the more celebrated Geisha in Japan, much of the devdaasi's history is lost in time. The initiation ritual was said to include a "deflowering ceremony", known as "uditambuvadu" in some parts, whereby the priests would have intercourse with every girl enrolled at his temple as part of his religious perks[8]. A Marathi saying, "Devdaasi devachi bayako, sarya gavachi" ("Servant of god, but wife of the whole town") aptly defines their position in the medieval era. Heavily influenced by the British the Anti-Nautch Act (Devadasi were called nautch girls, dancing girls) launched by the Indian Government terminated the brahminical occupation of the devadasis on November 11th, 1947[9].


Necklaces symbolise the bondage that defines devadasis girls from the lowest caste whose parents have given them to local goddesses or temples as human "offerings". Married to God before puberty[10], the devadasis, or Joginis[11], many of whom live in the temples, become sexual servants to the villages' upper-caste men after their first menstrual period. In some villages, devadasis are kept as concubines by the men who bought them. In others they are public chattel, who can be used by men free of charge[12]. "No estimates are available even about the number of child Devadasis and Joginis though these systems have been in traditionally existence in some societies as a socially sanctioned form of exploitation of women particularly those from lower socioeconomic groups in the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh"[13].


Despite legal measures such as Madhya Devadasis prevention and Dedication Act of 1947 and the Bombay Devadasis Prevention Act of 1954 it continues even today in parts of Tamil Naidu, Mysore Andhra Pradesh and Orissa practised by some castes. A study conducted in Bombay in mid sixties reported that as many as 30% of the Bombay prostitutes were of Devadasi origin. A study shows that Bijapur district girls are still dedicated to the temple amongst certain section of the lower castes and enter the profession with the consent of their parents. They are also taken out of the town or villages by an agent and a large part of their earnings goes to the family members and agents and no social stigma is attached to it. The reason is mainly economic[14].

A devadasi[15] is a woman married to a god and thus sadasuhagan or married, and hence at all times blessed. In the Vijapur district of Karnataka, girls are given to the Monkey God (Hanuman, Maruti), and known as Basvi. In Goa, a devadasi is called Bhavin (the one with devotion). In the Shimoga District of Karnataka, the girls are handed over to the goddess Renuka Devi, and in Hospet, to the goddess Hulganga Devi. The tradition lives on in other states in South India. Girls end up as prostitutes in Bombay and Pune. The Banchara and Bedia peoples of Madhya Pradesh also practice traditional prostitution[16]. The Devdasi system, the Basavi system, the Jogin system, and prostitution amongst the Bancharas, Rajnat, Dommara and Bedias tribes are all said to be ritualised and socially organised forms of the child prostitution[17]. Districts bordering Maharashtra and Karnataka, known as the "devadasi belt", have trafficking structures operating at various levels. The women here are in sex trade either because their husbands deserted them, or they are said to be trafficked through coercion and deception. Many are devadasis dedicated into prostitution for the goddess Yellamma. In one Karnataka brothel, all 15 girls are devadasi[18].


Beside the Devadasis, the male Waghyas, and the female muralis, are betrothed at birth to Khandoba. The latter are "the Maharashtrian equivalent of the South Indian devadasis". They are considered his brides, and formerly served as temple prostitutes  (Stanley, 1977:p32-3)[19].



Boy Prostitution, Love of Boys (see also Afghanistan) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Captain's wife, Mrs. Swinton, who took care of the sick during a dreadful voyage, wrote about a "lack of morality" among the women and men on board. She noted how "the parents of girls will sell their children for a few rupees"[20], also suggesting a sexual implication to this attitude. Data on love for boys in India are sparse (Brongersma, 1987:p107)[21], but it might have been common in ancient and medieval times, and also in 20th century boarding schools[22]. Bombay anthropologist Gopal (1969:p167)[23] stated that North Indian and Afghanistan males, known for their extraordinary libido, "almost always prefer smaller boys". Drew and Drake (1969:p127-34)[24] suggested that boy prostitution used to be rampant. Boy's of 9 to 13 would be locked up in cages and put on display[25]. Gupta (2002:p198)[26] recalls the condemnation of Pandey Becan Sharma 'Ugra''s book Chaklet (1927), which dealt with issues of sodomy, sexual acts between adult males and adolescent boys, and other aspects of male homosexuality. The stories would have "acknowledged the wide prevalence of such practices, especially in UP [United Provinces, now Uttar Pradesh], where the beautiful young boys were called 'chocolate', 'pocket-book' and 'money-order' ".


An examination of boylove in Urdu folklore was offered by Rahman (1989/1990)[27].


Wilber (1964:p130-1)[28] relates: "In the Pushtu-speaking areas of West-Pakistan, the unavailability and deprecation of women have encouraged the alternative practice in which the love objects are young boys and homosexual love is part of popular folklore". Lindholm for the Pakistan Pashtun:


"[…] the Pukhtun code of romantic love differs from that of the troubadors and the Baluch in one essential: perhaps because of pervasive relations of hostility between men and women, the loved one for Pukhtun men is quite often a boy or handsome young man. Homoerotic relationships were much more common a generation ago than they are now, since Western influence has brought a sense of shame about homosexuality, at least among the more educated. […] In 1977, homosexuality was very much less in evidence in Swat than it had been. Dancing girls had replaced dancing boys, and transvestites had become rare. Nonetheless, the first sexual experience of many, if not most boys, is with one of their passively inclined peers, or with an older man who is a confirmed bedagh. Older men still may cultivate a handsome young protégé who will accompany them everywhere, though the practice is hardly universal. Male beauty is much admired and the same word, xkuili, or beautiful, is applied to both men and women. Pukhtun poetry is often frankly homoerotic, following the Persian model".


An NGO[29] recently reported:


"Historically, South Asia has seen young adolescent males as sexual objects for older males. Not a man, nor a woman, but perhaps a "male gender" as sexual object. Many participants [of meeting] reported very early sexual encounters, where ages for first sexual contact varied between 8 years and 12 years. Pakistani participants reported on easy access to young boys at a range of tea-shops and restaurants in Peshawar, whilst other participants spoke of sexual encounters in the family between young boys and their uncles, cousins, brother-in laws, etc. Such behaviours also involve street children, male children in orphanages, boarding schools, domestic servants, etc.".


Khan[30] argued that


"[…] the whole region of Asia has had a history of the sexual construction of postpubertal boys. Young boys are not men, nor are they women who often are not sexually available. and have been historically defined as sexual objects to be desired and penetrated by men. The "beardless youths" of much Arab and Mughal literature reflects such a construction and practice, a practice that still continues to some extent. […] There is [a] construction around male sexual behaviours which can be loosely defined by the Hindi term, maasti. It means mischief, and is often used in the context of sexual play between young men and boys. More often than not it does not involve penetration, and involves invisiblised sexual play between friends. This maasti arises at moments of sexual tensions, as a "body tension", when sexual discharge becomes urgent, when sexual arousal arises during play or body contact, when opportunities are created for sexual contact, in the dark, under the blanket, in shared beds. Such opportunities are very frequent, where shared households have shared beds. There is a social acceptance of males sharing beds, of male to male affectionalism, both public and private. This means that significant levels of male to male sexual behaviour occurs within family environments and networks, between male relatives and friends. But this is not real sex! This is maasti, easily invisibilised and denied".


According to another recent NGO study[31], it was reasoned that


"[p]ost pubescent boys […] are not men, not adults, a state defined by marriage. In that sense they are the "beardless youths", sexually available to men. "Balkay" is a common word used for such boys. Male homosociobility [sic] and homoaffectionalism [sic] exist and is socially tolerated. Physical affection between men and women in public is not socially acceptable and often can be dangerous for both. For many men, because women are just not accessible, romantic longings are at a distance, unfulfilled and often filled with sexual urgency. All this emotional and sexual energy, the affectional needs and desires have very few socially acceptable outlets. However, intense male friendships are formed within homoaffectionalist framework, which include extensive touching, body contact and even sharing of beds".


Although generally condemning the practice, 22.57% of 1710 respondents residing in the North West Frontier Province (Pukhtuns) argued that "adults having sex with boys" was considered "a matter of pride", and another 14.04% stated it was seen as a "symbol of status"; a further 10.76% argued it was "not considered bad".82.92% claimed to know that "some adults keep boys for sexual services in [their] area", of which 16% stated it was "very common", 31% "common". According to 80.59%, boys in their community would "sell sex for money".


"Despite the fact that the majority of people consider it bad, the practice is by and large tolerated and accepted. There is again a double societal standard vis-a-vis "Bachabazi" and male homosexuality. While it is quite shameful and disgracing to be a passive agent (receptive partner), it is a matter of pride and power to be an active agent (insertive partner) in a homosexual relationship".


The general saying would apply, "Bey parday ma shey"(may you never be uncovered). The border with "child prostitution" (Sahil)[32] is problematic. Reid[33] (cf. Bancroft-Hinchey)[34] argues that the Taleban had forbidden the Pashtun tradition of the grooming of "ashna", or beardless "favourite boys" by "heavily bearded" men in Kandahar, 1994. It was not established how, "[o]nce the boy falls into the man's clutches—nearly always men with a wife and family—he is marked for life, [since] the Kandaharis accept these relationships as part of their culture". In 1998, indeed, three Afghan men were convicted by a Taleban Shari'a court of committing sodomy with young boys by having a stone wall felled on them[35]. The homosexuality, rather than the age of the boy, would have been the key factor[36].




"Child" and Age-Stratified Marriage and Consummation, with a Specific Reference to Age (see also Brahmin)  [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Transitions in India could be associated with the invention of a technological, industrial society that is marked by a discontinuity between childhood and adulthood[37]. Prepubertal marriage in India has never been universal in India, as may be suggested by official records (e.g., Agarwala, 1957)[38]. For a historical and state-specific overview of data on female marriage ages, see Banerjee (1998:p66)[39].


The Kama Sutra (300 AD~300 BC) describes prepubertal wooing, which seems to steer towards playing house:


"When a boy has thus begun to woo a girl that he loves, he should spend his time with her and amuse her with various games and diversions fitted for their age and acquaintanceship, such as picking and collecting flowers, making garlands of flowers, playing parts of members of a fictitious family, the game of odds and evens, the game of finding out the middle finger, the game of six pebbles. Hide-and-seek, playing with seeds, blind-man's bluff and other games of the same sort […]"[40].


Prepubertal, since a girl who has "fully arrived at puberty" should be avoided as a wife. Likewise, "A man who has seen and perceived the feelings of the [prepubescent] girl toward him, and who has noticed the outward signs and movements by which those feelings are expressed, should do everything in his power to effect a union with her. He should gain over a young girl by childlike sports". According to the Parashar Smitri and Sheeghrabodha the marriageable girls were divided into five categories: Nagnika or naked (seven years old or younger), Gauri (8), Rohini (9), Kanya (10) and Rajaswala (11 or older). According to Vaikhnasa, a Brahmin should marry a Nagnika since that is the best match. According to Marici the best age of marriage for a girl is five years old.

About a thousand years later, the Ratimañjari or "Posy of Love" made allusions to the attractiveness of hairliness, although a distinction is made only for girls aged sixteen or under (bala) and taruni (until 30). The Koka Shastra[41] described that "a young girl who is not yet mature must be approached by way of the 'outer' forms of lovemaking", these include embraces. There were two sorts of embrace for those who have not yet declared their love, four embraces by which they can make known their mind, and eight embraces for those who have shared love-pleasure already.


Child-marriage (Bal Vivaha)was not prevalent in ancient India[42], and there are reasons to believe that this custom originated in the medieval ages. An idea that would have originated among the Indo-Aryans, when wars were taking a heavy toll of the Aryan population, was to get daughters married within seven menstruations, and, later, before reaching puberty, to make the most of a woman's Rtu, or fertile years (Thomas, 1964:p162-4)[43]. Child marriage had not become general until the early centuries of the Christian era. It was also argued that


"[...] Sati, enforced widowhood and girl marriage are customs that were primarily intended to solve the problem of the surplus man and surplus woman in a caste and to maintain its endogamy. Strict endogamy could not be preserved without these customs, while caste without endogamy is a fake"[44].


Child marriage of daughters as young 5-6 years of age was common during the Brahmanic Dark Ages due to the custom of dowry. Lawbooks prescribed that the best partner for a man is one-third his age. An English observer, reporting on Mysore society at the end of the eighteenth century, wrote of the Brahmins, "Unless a woman marries before the signs of puberty appear, she is ever afterward considered impure", and of a merchant caste, that a girl "must be married before any sings of puberty appear, for afterwards she is considered as being deflowered and incapable of marriage"[45]. A father was considered sinful on seeing menstrual blood of an unmarried daughter (Sampath, 1972; Gupta, 1972)[46].

Nineteenth century Hindu scriptures sanctioned both child marriage and early consummation, "the girl should be married before puberty and certainly immediately after her first menstruation. If a girl gets married after her first menses it would not be a Kanya-dan but stree-dan. Kanya-dan can be consummated at the most at 11 years of her age".


The Indian Penal Code of 1846 placed a ban on consummated marriage under the age of ten. Around the middle of the 19th century, the ideal age of marriage, and not consummation, was under discussion[47]. By that time the laws of Manu ("A man, aged thirty years is to marry a girl of twelve, or a man of twenty-four years a damsel of eight: a breach of this rule makes a man sinful")[48] would be overruled by the teachings of Angira, that preferred the period between eight and ten, ten being the utter limit. Thus, a man might lose his dominion of his daughter if he fails to find her a husband "before she might be a mother; yet intercourse before puberty is especially forbidden" (Sumner, 1906:p383-5)[49]. However, "[…] in the lowlands of the Ganges cohabitation follows at once upon child marriage, with very evil results on the physique of the population". Risley[50]: "Unhappy the form of infant marriage which is gaining ground in the Bengal form, which favours consummation even before marriage […]".


Cited by Heimsath (1962:p493)[51], there existed disagreement on the point of premature (prepubertal) consummation of Indian child marriages in response to the issue raised by Malabari's 1884 plead for consent laws. (Strikingly, there was also disagreement on the age of pubescence among Hindu girls.) In 1890, Lokmanya Tilak opened a campaign against the Age of Consent Bill, which sought to raise the age of the consummation of marriage for girls from ten years to twelve years. In 1891 the Age of Consent Act (according to which sexual intercourse with unmarried or married girls below twelve years of age, with or without their consent, was to be treated as rape) had been passed, despite overwhelming protest by Indian nationalists. The decision of the British to raise the age of consent from 10, fixed in 1846, to 12 provoked widespread public agitation in Bengal involving both reform and orthodox forces who had been keenly debating the Hindu practice of child marriages, an issue inextricably linked to the question of a rational age of consent, during the previous two decades (Sen, 1980-1)[52]. Fearing social unrest the Viceroy had issued a subsequent executive order "that made it virtually impossible to bring cases of premature consummation of child marriage for trial under the Consent Act" (Sinha, 1994:p138)[53].


The age of consent was respectively put at 10 year (1846), 12 (1891), 13 (1925), and two years later arguments were made for age 14 (M. Harbilas Sarda)[54]. In 1930, mimimum marriage ages were placed at 14/18 (g/b) (Fischer, 1952:p117-22)[55]. Today, "the age of consent to sexual relations is 16 years. Sexual intercourse with a girl under this age, regardless of consent, amounts to rape and offenders are liable to imprisonment from 7 year to life" (ECPAT)[56].


Authors claimed that coitus "routinely" took place before puberty. Premenarchal coitus was assumed to be common in India by Fehlinger ([1921:p125])[57]. Oman (undated)[58] stated that "consummation of marriage has commonly taken place when the child-wife is perhaps not more than ten years of age".DeMause (1991, 1998)[59] deals extensively with incest in India, identified as "a veritable Galapagos of psychohistorical variations of incestuous behavior": "For a girl to be a virgin at ten years old, she must have neither brothers nor cousin nor father"[60]. He is sure that this aspect was important in breeding Paradoxia, thus, "little Hindu girls are deflowered by the little boys with whom they play, and repeat together the erotic lessons which their parents have unwittingly taught them on account of the general promiscuity of family life throughout India. In all the little girls of less than ten years of age the complete hymen is wanting" [[61]].

That the "widespread use" of children would occur before their puberty should be clear:


"The sexual use of boys and girls goes back as far as records exist and includes all cases in India. As Mayo says, "For a period so long that none knows it beginning, the Brahmin has been intensively cultivating, and with priestly authority handing on, a passion for immature girl-children in sexual use" [[62]]. Temple prostitution of both boys and girls has a long history, and Mayo reported in 1927 that "the little boy [...] is likely, if physically attractive, to be drafted for the satisfaction of grown men, or to be regularly attached to a temple, in the capacity of prostitute. Neither parent as a rule sees any harm in this, but is, rather, flattered that the son has been found pleasing" [[63]]. […] Since prior to the 1929 child Marriage Restraint Act most Indian girls were married and began sexual intercourse before age 12, they moved from familial incest to sex with older men chosen by the family while they were still children [[64]]. Fathers who allowed their girls to reach puberty without being married were condemned by their religion to hell".


[It is clear Demause's grasp of "incest" is that of "child abuse". Gandhi's alleged "paedophilic" tendencies have been discussed by Bullough (1981; cf. B&B, 1996)[65].]


Socialisation, however, was said to be in tune with the attitudes on children's passions, as observed at the 1929 Child Marriage Restraint Act discussions, and reported by Mayo. Quoting from DeMause:


"Mayo said most of this committee testimony was too obscene to even repeat in its insistence on the necessity for child sex. The Committee was overwhelmed by those who insisted that the children were so oversexed that by the time they were seven years old that child marriage was their only salvation. "Little children, both boys and girls, they lament, naturally develop an unnatural, perverted and exhausting precocity, under the stimulus in which they are steeped" - that is, the family incest during the first seven years. Mayo reported numerous testimonies that blamed the little girls for their rape, claiming that early marriage was an absolute necessity, since "Cupid overtakes the hearts of girls [...] at an early age [...]. A girl's desire for sexual intercourse is eight times greater than that of males […] When there is appetite, it is the best time for giving food [...] [Mayo, 1927:p63]".


Legal ages for consummation were established at ten in 1846, and at twelve in 1891; however, at its reconsideration in 1929, it was found that the law "was known to very few members of the lay public" (Scott, 1960:p78)[66]. Afterwards, Karve (1969:p126-7)[67] stated that in Northern India, ceremonial cohabitation took place when the husband came to take the girl into his house after first menses; marriage in childhood occurred, although prohibited. Ishwaran (1968:p54)[68] stated that the Marriage Restraint Act is held to promote sexual laxity and responsible for an increase in divorce (p71). In the examined village, six marriages involving brides below age five and bridegrooms below age ten, took place in ten years time (p54). The introduction of the 1929 law caused a brief rush of marriages at ages four to ten (Keddie, 1979:p325-6)[69].

Revivalist nationalists protested the 1891 amendment, which raised the age of sexual consent for girls from 10 to 12, as "colonial intervention in the domestic sphere and demonstrated that the control and objectification of women's bodies was an important component in the self-definition of national community"[70].


The practice became a matter of international concerns, given the many writings aimed for establishing its historical identity[71]. The age of marriage declined with caste status, the lower caste may arrange for marriage at age five (Luschinsky, 1962, I:260-2)[72], although this is not universally so (Luschinsky, 1963:p578-80)[73].

There has been a dramatic increase in age at marriage for women in a rural area of north India. Age at marriage rose from under 12 years before 1930 to about 19 years in 1988, mainly as a result of socioeconomic development and advances in education of women[74].

Today, as in the past, data vary over subregions[75]. In Rajasthan state, a 1993 survey of 5,000 women revealed that 56 per cent had married before age 15, and of these, 17 per cent married before age 10[76]. Data obtained via 1986/7 semistructured interview from a random sample of 50 households in each of 4 villages in 3 districts of Rajasthan revealed that in 51% of families, females got married before the legal age of 11 years (Nagi, 1990)[77]. A 1998 survey in Madhya Pradesh found that nearly 14 per cent of girls were married between ages 10 and 14[78]. Among girls born in rural Dharwad during 1962-1972, the median age at marriage is 16 years while "nearly one-fourth of the marriages are even pre-puberty cases"[79].


[Additional refs: Nair, J. (1995) Prohibited marriage: State protection and the child wife, Contributions to Indian Sociol 29,1-2:157-86; Plomp, Ch. (1938) Het kinderhuwelijk in Voor-Indie, Mensch & Maatschappij [Amsterdam] 14:385-401; Umamani, K. S. & Raju, K. N. M. (1997) Cultural factors and prepuberty marriages in Karnataka, Man in India 77,4:363-74; Sarkar, T. (2000) A Prehistory of Rights: The Age of Consent Debate in Colonial Bengal, Feminist Studies 26,3:601-22; Forbes, G. H. (1979) Women and Modernity: The Issue of Child Marriage in India, Women's Studies Int Quart 2,4:407-19; Pathak, K. B. (1980) Law and Age at Marriage for Females in India, Indian J Social Work 40,4:407-15; Tambe, S. (2001) From Hidden to Manifest Horror: Child Sexual Abuse, Philosophy & Social Action 27,1:23-35]


Regulating Marriage / Consummation Age [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Rather specific timing customs of consummation are recorded relative to the event of marriage, which in turn is relative to the event of menarche (or presently, horoscopes). The Marathas, for instance, consummate their marriage after the first menstruation of the bride after marriage[80]. A specific, institutionalised delay relative to puberty / menarche is noted by various authors.

According to Bloom and Reddy (1986:p511-2)[81] Indian childhood and a proportion of nonchildhood marriages are "always" subject to a so-called two-stage process in which "consummation is delayed at least until the astrological signs for husband and wife are both auspicious (which usually takes a minimum of one to three months); in practice the delay seems to serve as a social device for monitoring and deterring the occurrence of sexual relations before marriage"[82]. It is argued that mothers give out a lower age for the bride so as to "ease their consciences, so that "[…] physical consummation and living together is, by and large, a post-puberty affair" (p339)[83]. The ritual of consummation could be called return marriage (Rele, 1962:p268)[84], and "usually takes place after the girl reaches puberty". In the case of prepubertal marriage, a nuptial ceremony (guana in Hindu) indicated the commencement of regular sexual relations after menarche (Mandelbaum, 1974:p35-6)[85]. Among the Rajbansis of Bangladesh (Agarwala, 1962:p4, as cited by Sattar, 1978:p54-5)[86], child marriage[87] is followed by a "second" marriage called Gauna or Vida, after which cohabitation is enacted. Ramadas (1928)[88] wrote that, at the time of writing, child marriages were common, but the ceremonies observed in these marriages were "merely a pretense that the small boys and girls are husbands and wives; the real nuptial marriages are put off until they reach the age of discretion". "Given that girls married before reaching menarche are not physically mature enough to consummate the marriage, customarily Gauna (beginning of effective married life) is performed sometime after the girl has reached menarche"[89]. In rural villages, in up to 5.8% Gaunu was held between ages 6 and 11; in some further 50% it occurred before age 16. According to Joseph (1911:p54-5)[90], until puberty a child bride stayed on with her natal family; muklawa, which customarily took place several years after the wedding ceremony, was the entry and establishment of the wife in her husband's house when the marriage was consummated.



Token Marriage [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


In contemporary South India, menarchal girls usually undergo seclusion until their newly acquired fertility can be properly controlled by means of rites which often mimic marriage (Good, 1982)[91]. The arrow marriage, in which a girl is formally associated to an arrow, sword, or branch of a tree, is a token pre-puberty marriage and an important socio-religious rite among some aboriginal tribes of India (Dube, 1948, 1953[92]; cf. Yalman, p47-8). The occurrence of menarche, or any sexual transgression, prior to this rite is viewed very seriously and brings social disgrace to the girl and her parents[93]. After the rite is performed the parents are no longer considered responsible for lapses on the part of the girl and certain liberties are condoned. Seligman[94]: "Among the Oriya, in all castes except the Brahman a girl is married to an arrow if a suitable husband has not been found for her before she reaches puberty[95], while among the cultivators of Ganjam if a girl cannot find a husband before puberty, a "nominal marriage [...] is performed with a bow in the place of a husband[96]".


Tāli Rites [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Despite these customs, defloration used to be customary in the prepubertal (ages 7 to 12) Tāli rites (Stone, 2000:p140)[97]. The ritual known as Tali-Kettu Kalyanam (Yalman, 1963:p33-9; Dumont, 1964[98]; Rigby, 1967:p441-2) included the tying of a tāli (a gold ornament) by the groom round the girl's neck. Gough (1955:p62-3)[99] wrote that these rites always include a (at least) symbolic defloration. "This is most clear in the royal lineages, where the bridegroom actually deflowers the girl". Among the Nayar, this once widespread custom declined under the British rule in late 18th century. According to Gough (1952:p79)[100]: "The pre-puberty tāli rite lost much of its significance, and the tāli-tier was no longer required to cohabit with his ritual "wife" ". Gough (1959:p25)[101]: "I was told that traditionally, if the girl was nearing puberty, sexual relations might take place. This custom began to be omitted in the late nineteenth century, but from some of the literature it appears to have been essential in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries". This literature may be illustrated by the observations by the Portugese traveller Duarte Barbosa[102] in the beginning of the 16th century discussed by Peter (1963:p170-1)[103]. He insists that a girl after the Tāli has been tied on her, she should be deflowered before puberty by a specially assigned man "for amongst themselves they hold it an unclean thing and almost a disgrace to deflower women" (cf. Battacharyya)[104].The tāli rite did not confer sexual rights (Gough, 1965)[105]. Speaking of the Tāli tying rites Panikkar (1918:p267,n3)[106] notes: "Among the Nayars social puberty differs considerably in point of time from physiological puberty. It is a matter of great importance that the former should precede the latter. Any family in which a girl attains her physiological puberty, as evidenced by her first menses, before she had attained her social puberty, is socially outside the pale" (see also Yalman, 1963:p34).

Ploß (Die Frau, I) mentioned that Nayar cast girls are pubescent between 13 and 15th year, while many have intercourse with men at age 11 (cf. Ronhaar)[107]. Yalman denies sexual intercourse as part of the Tali rite at least for the Northern Tiyyar (Irava) (p35).



Indian Menarche [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


"Most women do not know about the physiology of menstruation and therefore the first experience of menstruation is filled with fear, shame and disgust. […] Elaborate rituals are performed in south Indian states-as well as in many parts of north India-at the onset of menstruation. The onset of puberty is traditionally viewed in terms of the girl's emergent sexuality and prospective motherhood. The pubescent girl is given an elaborate ritual bath, after a massage with turmeric and vermillion"[108].


Data from the writings of Indian legislators during the period between ca. 500 B.C. and A.D. 500 have been used to study menarchal age among girls born in classical India (Datta and Gupta, 1981)[109]. As these legislators were concerned mainly with the upper-caste population, it can be presumed that the recordings obtained are only from upper-caste Hindu girls. Throughout the period the age at menarche was about 12 years. A number of legislators considered the best age for conception to be around 16. When these data are compared with those obtained from classical Greece and Rome, the Indian age is found to be about 1-2 years earlier. Comparison of the data from the 19th century and present-day India reveals that the older data are about 0.8-2.2 years earlier when various areas are considered.

A selection of contemporary studies indicates mean figures of 13.6 +/- 0.83[110], 13.5[111], 15.4[112], 15.2[113], 12.6[114], 12.7[115], and 13[116]. In one study[117], the mean age of menarche was 12 years and 12.8 years for USES and LSES. The development of breasts was first to appear at the age of 8.25 years, being followed by pubic and axillary hair development. Studies[118] suggest a decline in menarchal age. In one study on Fijian Indians[119], Indian menarcheal age appeared to be extremely low, with a median value of 11.80.

A note is in place about adolescent infertility. In the data discussed by Mandelbaum (1954)[120], the average age of puberty (actually the consummation of marriage) was 13.7 (Madras), and the average age of first birth 17.4 (Mysore).


In the "apple belt" of Shimla hills, the major reaction to first menstruation was fear (98.5 per cent); 21.3 per cent of girls were not touching anything before having a bath and sleeping separately during periods. Only 41.1 per cent girls knew that menarche means the beginning of reproductive life (Gupta et al., 1996[121]; cf. Narayan et al., 2001)[122].


[Additional refs.: Tokita-Tanabe, Y. (1999) Women and Tradition in India: Construction of subjectivity and control of female sexuality in the ritual of first menstruation, in Tanaka, M & Tachikawa, M. (Eds.) Senri Ethnol Studies [Japan] 50:193-220]



Hinduism and Sexual Socialisation [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Francoeur (1990:p103-6)[123] provided a baseline sketch of Hindu sexuality. "In the traditional type of orthodox Bengalee-Hindu community the conscience-keeper parents prefer to keep their children in a sexually spoon-fed stage by tabooing sex until they attain marital maturity. As a result, lacking any formal scientific training or sex education, after marriage they suddenly have they opportunity to satisfy their sexual urges according to what they may have heard and master the techniques by a trial and error method" (Burman and Bose, 1980)[124]. Nevertheless, Mayo[125] complained that Indian mothers habitually masturbated their sons (cf. Rotter, 1994:p534-5)[126].

DuBois ([1906] 1959:p308)[127] stated that


"[…] subjected as they are from their earliest youth to influences which prematurely develop the latent germs of passion and vice, the knowledge of evil always comes before the first dawnings of reason. At the time of their lives when, according to the laws of nature, the passions should remain unawakened, it is not at all unusual to find children of both sexes familiar with words and actions which are revolting to modesty. The instincts that are excited at an early age by the nudity in which they remain till they are seven of eight years old, the licentious conversation that they are always hearing around them, the lewd songs and obscene verses that their parents delight in teaching them as soon as they begin to talk, the disgusting expressions which they learn and use to the delight of those who hear them, and who applaud such expressions as witticisms; these are the foundations on which the young children's education is laid, and such are the earliest impressions which they receive".


In this context, it is reasoned that "[i]n order to prevent the consequences of this precocious sensuality, parents must hasten to marry their children as early as possible".

For a note on modesty training of Hindi 7- to 8-year-olds, see Joshi and Tiwari (1977)[128].



Current Age of Consent[129] [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


The legal age at which a person is currently competent to consent to sexual intercourse is currently eighteen. The legal age of consent for marriage is eighteen years for male persons and twenty-one years for female persons. Rape is punished severely but less so when the woman raped is his own wife and is not under twelve (Section 376[1], Penal Code).Sex with a female under fifteen years of age is considered rape, even if wedded. Graupner speaks of a minimum age for sexual relations of a girl with a "man" of 15/16.



Village Life: Some Authors on Sexual Climate [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


With so much attention paid to age-stratified marriage, little is written about children's sexual get-togethers. In his psychoanalytic elaboration on childhood and sexuality, Kakar (1978, 1990) [130] provides little substantial material on sexual development. Krishna and Nayar (1997)[131] only make general remarks on childhood sexual behaviour.


"Present-day children in India are more exposed to new areas of knowledge than their parents were. As a matter of fact, young people are simply deluged these days with movies, magazines, and books - all prime sources of sexual information and stimulation. […] Though parents have the primary responsibility of imparting sex education to their children, it has been found that a majority of young people in India derive their information about sex and sex behavior largely from companions, street-corner conversation, movies, and magazines. […] Many have inhibitions about discussing sex with their children; others admit that they do not have the technical knowledge to answer all the questions their children ask. In this situation, the teacher is a major factor in determining the success of any sex-education program".


"Masturbation is generally unacceptable among girls. For boys however it is considered a preparation for mature sex life. Though boys at the younger ages may masturbate together without shame, at little more mature ages, they all give it up. This seems to be particularly so in the case of married men. In recent years, the availability of sexually explicit books, magazines, and videos has also acted as major contributory factor for male autoerotic activities".


"Before puberty, a natural approach to sexuality and nudity prevails, especially in rural areas. Daughters and sons are carefully prepared for their future domestic roles as mothers and fathers. Women are considered to be much more skilled than males in love and sexual pleasures. At puberty, most boys and girls are segregated. In some regions of India, pubescent girls are not even allowed to enter a house where a single young man is present. Sexual views and behavior are somewhat more natural and less inhibited in India's rural villages, according to Dr. Promilla Kapur, a research psychologist and sociologist at New Delhi's India International Center. Some tribal groups practice totally free sex among adolescents. Nowadays, with the advent of various satellite television programs, children are exposed at their early ages to various programs, including considerable sexually related material. This exposure often results in conflicting responses for girls raised in a society that represses or ignores female sexuality. In rural areas, adults sometimes talk loudly about their sexual experiences in the presence of children, and this provides opportunities for the young men to think more about sex. In urban areas, especially cities where housing shortage is very acute, adults in public places like parks and cinema theaters generally satisfy their sexual feeling through hugging or other noncoital sexual practices. These acts also provide learning opportunities for the younger ones. Sexual play, such as looking at another child's buttocks or genitals, genital touching games, sharing a bed with a child of the opposite sex, etc., likewise provides children with opportunities for sexual exploration; the parents would not necessarily be aware of these acts of their children".


Alex[132], drawing on material from fieldwork in Tamil Nadu, South India, states that


"[o]n the one hand are kinship relations between affines learnt and expressed by sexual speech. On the other hand is the play of sexuality between children, a quite common phenomena [sic], and as long as it takes place before the onset of sexual maturity, so that it can't lead to pregnancy, it is more or less tolerated. […] Chastity and virginity are the ultimate values regarding unmarried women. Being raped or having intercourse after the onset of puberty but before marriage decreases the status of a young woman and complicates the finding of a husband immensely. But the disgrace is not so much concentrated on the individual woman, but more on the results it has for further social relations. Sexuality between children, who are still sexually immature, has not the same consequences. Because it is not linked to fertility it is seen as very different from adult sexuality. This difference leads to the question how sexuality constructs a person's identity in different cultural contexts".


Sinha (1977)[133]: "Although babies in these families are handled and dressed in ways that act as genital stimulants, the stimulation is such that most of them are likely to adjust quickly to it. Opportunities for the children to witness parental coitus do occur, but such experiences are not likely to cause undue disturbances".

As for the Bhils: "Customs […] to train the young in […] sex control […] do not exist […]. There are no puberty rites for boys and girls" (Hyppolytus)[134]. Carstairs (1957:p72)[135] states that in the studied Hindu families, "[…] sex is never discussed between parents and children. The latter learn the facts of life, and the pleasures of erotic stimulation, from each other at an early age. My informants agreed that most children masturbate, and indulge in heterosexual and homosexual play for years before puberty; but they know that this is disapproved of by their elders, so it is done secretly. Masturbation and homosexual practices among children were condemned as "weakening" (although [one informant] maintained that the passive partner would thrive, being enriched by the other's semen) but they did not give rise to strong feelings of antipathy. […] In general […] masturbation in later childhood […] was vehemently condemned". ["Almost all boys [13-15 year-olds] shared the perception that semen discharge leads to weakness and less blood in the body. Overall, it is clear that information is largely derived from misinformed sources -movies, sex books, friends, magazines, relatives"[136]]. Later, Poffenberger (1981:p87-8)[137] found much controversy among parents interviewed. Especially, the use of fire (burning sticks) and, more rigorously, hanging by the hands are mentioned as means of punishment.

Luschinsky (1962, I:p253-6)[138] found that women denied the necessity of sex education: "they know everything from birth. This is kaliyuga [today's age, according to Hindu cosmology] […] Instead of teaching them, they teach us". Children listen to sexual conversations. From age 4 or 5 to eight, they may be sexually teased by elders, verbally and physically: "In lower-caste groups, elders may bring small boys on the verse of tears by roughly handling their sex organs and threatening to cut them off" (p254). Prepubertal girls might be told about pregnancy (but not menses), boys are not. Attempts at sexual intercourse and masturbation were punished physically (including tying by the wrists and ankles) and by ridicule. In a report by Dube (1955 [1961:p194-6])[139] it is stated that children join play-groups, where, by observation of elders and oral instruction,


"[s]ex knowledge and sex experience [...] widens considerably [...]. Masturbation is now stealthily practised. Elders do not take an indulgent view if they find grown-up boys manipulating and rubbing their penes. Ridicule and threats are often employed to cure the habit. The threats commonly given are: "If you persist in this habit your organ will not grow"; or that "It will become crooked and you will be useless" ". The play-groups states the opposite, so the practice is continued in private. Among boys, there is joint masturbation, mutual masturbation (less frequently), and coital imitation without penetration. "Homosexuality" is confined to preadolescent and adolescent groups: "A boy persuades a smaller boy to lie down with him and just rubs his organ at his anus- only in very rare cases is any anal penetration effected. A popular game with the boys is to make a female figure in dust and play at copulation. In the three instances observed by us the imitation was perfect, and resembled normal coitus in all its essentials. Boys and girls play at marriages, which in a few cases culminates in the act of "sleeping together [which in a few cases] reaches the point of rubbing genital organs. Girls masturbate either by pressing and releasing their clitoris with their fingers or by rubbing their thighs". 


In adolescence, masturbation is gradually given up as being unmanly, and pubic hairs and genital organs are "closely watched and compared".

According to data provided by Kurian (1975:p77)[140] 61.8% of respondents felt that sex education is the responsibility of parents and schools, a progressive argument in a society "in which sex is still not discussed in public". Among adolescent boys in Gujarat District, the first sexual "partner" was a prostitute for 87.6%, an older woman for 8.4%, and a girlfriend of the same age for only 2%[141]. "Apart from the age and physiological factors that bring a new awakening to their own sexuality, students very often discussed the role of Cable TV and local video parlours which screened X-rated films, in accentuating their curiosity about sex"[142].


[Additional refs.: Singh, S. & Man, A. de (1989) Attitudes Toward Childrearing among Indian Women: A Structural Analysis, Int J Comparat Sociol 30:231-4 [examines but does not concludes separately on the measure of "suppression of sexuality" by Indian mothers of 5- to 7-year-olds] ]



Contemporary Coitarche [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Some data on Delhi medical students are given in a study by Aggarwal et al. (2000)[143], who review a contemporary coitarche taking place at ages 15.1 to 19.1. In a study by Tikoo (1997)[144] on New Dehli grade students, the "average age when the students learned about human sexuality" was 10.9 years, with a range of 3 to 26 for the "beginning" of "sex education". The averages of the latter variable's initial timing were significantly different for both genders, though not wide apart (girls: 14.99, SD=4.63; boys: 15.55, SD=4.28).


[Additional refs: Kishore et al. (1978)[145]].



Street Love [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]

Abhraham (2000, 2002)[146] and Ramakrishna et al (2001)[147] sketch how Indian street youth negotiate heterosexual affiliations within diverse categories, including Bhai-behen ("a 'brother-sister' like relationship, platonic in nature and explicitly signifies a friendship devoid of any sexual involvement"), "true love" ("pursued with the implicit or explicit intention of marriage"), and "time pass friendships" ("a transitory relationship with a girl of their age, characterized by sexual intimacy that may lead to sexual intercourse"). Thus,


"[y]outh sexuality as it is channelled and experienced was far more complex than what is typically understood in terms of 'boyfriend-girlfriend' relationships".


[Additional refs.:Ramakrishna, J., Chandran, V., Karott, M. & Murthy, R. S. (2001) Language and Behaviour as Media for Enactment of Desire among Sexually Exploited Male Children and Street Children  in Bangalore, India. Paper for presentation at the 3rd IASSCS Conference in Melbourne, 1-3 Oct. 2001]




India: Ethnographic Particularities (Abor, Lingayats, Bengali, ®Punjabi; Rājpūts, Brahmans, Nagas, Chamars, Nayar, Todas, Hill Maria Gond, Hill Saoras, Sinhalese, Purum, Veda, Santals, Garos, Muria Gonds, Baiga, Nimar Bahalis, Telugu, Lepcha, Lodha, Uttar Pradesh, Andamanese, Nicorbarese) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]




Abor (India)  [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]




"The Abor girl grows up without any feelings of conflict in the period between childhood and puberty. They learn of the relations between the sexes at an early age and are completely aware of the different biological phases of their lives. It is natural to have sexual relations before they attain puberty. The attainment is not marked by any ritualistic performance. A girl does not consider her first menstruation to be an event important enough to tell anybody. She has no shame in letting people know, however, and may speak of it casually to her age mates"(p102)


There are separate boy and girl dormitories (moshup and rahseng, resp.). Girls are expected to be courted there at night, leaving before dawn (p112-3).


Lingayats (India) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Among the Lingayats, "pre-puberty engagements and marriages have been quite common (Chekki, 1968:p128)[149].



Bengali (India) (eHRAF) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Fruzzetti (1982[150]; cf. 1975 [1992:p304]):


"In the past, kumri girls were given in marriage before the arrival of their menstrual flow since this is a girl's purest stage. At present only the low castes and Muslims insist on giving their girls in marriage before the first menstruation, though the young wife remains in her father's house until she achieves puberty. The majority of marriages are contracted long after puberty even though a girl becomes ready for marriage after her first menstrual flow. In such a situation, the menstrual rites are known as natun biye, "new marriage". For child-brides, the rites are called anna biye, "another marriage", and are performed in the virgin's father's house. The menstruation rites of the child-bride define her sexual maturity, and on the third [fourth, according to Fruzzetti, 1984)] day after the ritual the husband may take her to his house to consummate the marriage. The ritual accompanying the first menstrual flow is simple, yet clearly tied to the sexual aspects of marriage, to the union of male and female".


Inden (1977:p41)[151] that the sixth and last segment of the wedding (punar-vivha, "consummatory marriage") may be done "[…] on the third day or, if the bride has not celebrated her first menstruation before marriage, on an auspicious day after that first menstruation". "Even if the bride and groom have reached puberty, they are not to have sexual intercourse on this night [the first of marriage], since their marriage is not completed yet".

Klass (1978)[152]:


"In the past, before Independence, a girl was married before she reached puberty, although among Brahmans and other high-ranked castes she returned to her natal home and continued to live with her parents, taking up residence with her husband's family only after her first menstruation. Boys, too, were young when they were married—perhaps thirteen or fourteen—and therefore marriage and puberty were in many ways fused. Even today, boys are considered children until marriage; even in his late teens, an unmarried male is assumed to have no interest in sex and to be without the capacity to offer up proper prayers. Only after the boy's marriage will the [Utilde]cu pa[unknown]a [[153]]  father summon the family gurudeb (spiritual adviser) to teach the young man the mantras he is expected to know" (p80).




"In the village, the initiative lies with the male head of the girl's household, referred to […] as her "guardian". This may be her father, father's brother, father's father, or even her elder brother. The guardian of a village girl feels a sense of urgency or social pressure (and if he doesn't, it will be communicated to him by his wife), for there is a widespread belief that a girl should be married before her first menstruation or as soon thereafter as possible. Among the lowest jats in the social hierarchy, marriage frequently takes place when the girl is nine years old; even among those village families most affected by Europe-derived standards, the girl is rarely permitted to reach her late teens"[154].


Roy (1975:p188n32)[155] dwells at length on the sexual developmental experience of girls: "In this part of Bengali society a young girl (as the case study shows) usually learns about menstruation from her peers. It is rare that a mother or an aunt explains the whole matter to a girl approaching puberty. The subject matter, like the subject of sex, is considered taboo".


"Intimate advice regarding sex may be given by a MZ [mother's sister] to a new bride, whereas it is not a common phenomenon for a mother to advise her daughter about to be married in matters of sex" (Fruzzetti). "The girls also learn a great deal about sex from their married friends"[156]. After a girl's prepubertal menstrual ritual [sic],  "[…] she is a "fruit" for men in other lineages [an expression often used for a girl about to be married is "the fruit has ripened"] (p167).


"If the girl happens to know anything about the sexual relationship between the mother and father, she is ambivalent about it, but that does not tarnish her love and respect for her father. If she has already learned about the facts of life from her peers (such as that parents have intercourse), she may also know that sex is considered dirty because no one is supposed to talk about it or watch it. Only adult married people can indulge in it in privacy. And if her parents indulge in it, she is puzzled and may blame her mother for it" (Roy, p27; cf. cases 61, 8). "[…] subjects discussed frequently at school are "the facts of life." This information she rarely learns from anyone at home. There are always a number of older and precocious classmates who know all about such matters. She learns the biological facts about a woman's body, about her menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and the connection between sexual intercourse and pregnancy. This information, of course, does not come as clinical talk; rather it is contained in interesting and exciting stories and pieces of gossip. She finds out that many of her friends accidentally have had opportunities to witness sexual acts. Someone may, for example, overhear the parents at night or be in the same room with a newly married couple; someone may have come across a pornographic magazine that her older brother had hidden under the mattress. Now she can guess the kind of "adult talk" her mother and younger aunts indulge in during some of the afternoon sessions. It has to do with "the facts of life".


In Bengal the menstrual ritual takes place before or after the girl has achieved puberty. The ideal is to perform the ritual before the girl actually achieves puberty, but even if it isn't, the ritual is enacted in the same way. In this ritual, the women place five different kinds of sweetmeats and fruits on the initiate's acal (end part of the saree) as food offerings. "The girl does not eat the food offerings, "her own fruit", which symbolize her maturity, sexuality, and femaleness. Instead she gives to very young pre-puberty boys and girls of the neighbourhood. From now on she is a "fruit" for men in other lineages [an expression often used for a girl about to be married is "the fruit has ripened" " (Fruzzetti, p166-7).



Rājpūts (India) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


As observed by Minturn and Hitchcock (1963)[157] young boys wear a black cord around their waist, according to some mothers to "to make the vein in the penis grow straight" lest a contrary condition caused impotence (p312-3). "Although the infants and small children wore nothing but shirts, we saw no evidence of masturbation. Whether or not the babies masturbate while hidden under their covering of quilts we were not, of course, able to observe. Since infants are usually carried when they are not sleeping, they do not have much opportunity to masturbate". Aunts may "playfully pull the child's penis while joking with him" (p316). No comments are made on childhood.



Brahmin, Brahman (India) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


"Traditionally", writes Harper (1964:p170)[158], "Brahmin girls were married before puberty, and the marriage was consummated fifteen days after she reached puberty […]". Describing Kondayamkottai Maravars, Fawcett (1903:p62)[159] states: "Marriage may be celebrated either before, or after, puberty, and, though girls may live with their husbands before this event, it is unusual for the ceremony to take place after it. After puberty, a girl should not live with her parents". "Until recently, Brahmans used to be marry their girls before puberty, and parents who had not succeeded in finding husbands for daughters past the age of puberty were regarded as guilty of a great sin" (Srinivas, 1956:p484)[160]. This is significant, since Brahman marriage is "in theory indissoluble". Among the "low" castes, this institution was taken with more liberalism, and marriage after puberty may occur. In the Mysore Brahmin community studied by Srinivas, all marriages had to be consummated "on the sixteenth night after the bride's puberty" (Srinivas, 1942[161]:p134-5; Goody, 1990:p207-8)[162]. In the Nagara Brahmin community on which Mankad (1934-5)[163] reported, a bride only visited her husband's home after puberty and took up permanent residence there six months later.



Konyak and Tankhul Nagas (India) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


"Until puberty there is little contact between children of different morung [men's house, entered variably at ages 9 to as late as 16]. They rarely play together and especially the girls are not often seen outside their own khel. But as soon as interest in the opposite sex awakens, things change radically. An Oukheang boy will sneak at night to the house of a Balang girl" (Von Furer-Haimendorf, 1938:p362)[164].


The Tankhul Nagas prescribed an ivory ring to be worn from puberty onward on "the person", allegedly to prevent erectio penis (Watt)[165].



Chamars(India) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


The Chamars practiced pre- and postnatal betrothal (Briggs, 1920 [1975:p74])[166].



Nayar (India) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


The Tali ritual has been mentioned. Gough (1961 [1962:p346])[167] further notes that in former times "mothers and other matrilineally related women instructed girls in the arts of love".



Todas (India) (-,-,-,-,-,-;-,-;G1) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


According to Rivers (1906:p503)[168], a "man of strong physique" has intercourse with the girl for one night 14 or 15 days after the prepubescent putkuli tâzâr utili ceremony. "This [intercourse] must take place before puberty, and it seemed that there were few things regarded as more disgraceful than that this ceremony should be delayed till after this period [[169]]. [The Institutes of Vishnu proscribe that "A damsel whose menses begin to appear (while she is living) at her father's house, before she has been betrothed to a man, has to be considered as a degraded woman: by taking her (without the consent of her kinsmen) a man commits no wrong"[170]] It might be a subject of reproach and abuse for the remainder of the woman's life, and it was even said that men might refuse to marry her if this ceremony had not been performed at the proper time". Walker (1986:p200)[171] stated that marriage was initiated in childhood and completed at maturity. "Usually parents arrange marital alliances for their offspring before the children are two or three years old, and it is not uncommon for an infant of no more than a few months old to be married. The children remain with their parents until maturity, and it is possible that the original alliance will be dissolved and a new one arranged before the young couple begin to live together". Walker also maintains that defloration, both symbolic and actual, were traditionally performed before menarche, "or otherwise she and her parents would suffer great shame" (p202-4). Insinuations on its continuation were found to be contradictory. A frightened girl would be told certain stories[172] to "coax her into agreeing to the rite". It was performed by one of few men assigned for the task, although no formal rules were said to exist on this point.



Hill Maria (India) (Maria Gond: 2,2,2,2,2,2;8,8) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Grigson (1938:p268-9)[173] stated that a few Hill Maria practised the ghotul in a similar manner as the Muria tribes. Girls assembled every evening by the boys' dormitory to join in song, dance and games, including sexual games. The girls had ghotul names and responsibilities just as the boys did, and the elder boys and girls were charged with teaching the young the elements of tribal culture.

Hill Maria girls associated with boys at an early age. Children were expected to attend the dormitories beginning at the age of eleven or twelve. All boys assembled at the dormitory in the evening for dancing, games and social or sexual training, sleeping on there after the departure of the girls to their homes late in the night. Every girl attended the boy's dormitory every night and had her boy friend to serve. Each girl paired off with a boy of a clan that was eligible for marriage. The girls combed their boys' hair and massaged their arms and legs, danced with them, were initiated into the mysteries of sex with them. According to numerous informants, they often had sexual intercourse together and were expected to ultimately marry their mate. Marriage frequently followed these dormitory unions, but by no means always.



Gond and Bhumia of Eastern Mandla (India) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Fuchs (1960)[174] stated that "a girl picks up knowledge of menstruation and sex life from older girls and women or from observing the menstruation of her own mother". Menarche occurs at about age 14 (p243). Child marriage was gradually introduced in former days (p259). Betrothal may take place at age 12 (boys) and ten (girls); the children are not consulted unless they are both "of age" (p261, 262). "It is not necessary [however] that the bride be sexually mature at the time of her wedding. If she has not yet reached puberty, she usually returns to her parents after the celebration. But sometimes she begins to live with her husband soon after marriage, especially if the latter is no longer so young (p266). Thus, "[s]ome young girls have to live with their husband even before puberty, especially if the husband is a grown-up man and unwilling to wait any longer for the consummation of the marriage (p291).



Hill Saoras (India) (unrated) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Elwin (1955)[175] stated that premarital sex life was rather free. "Saora marriage, which takes place rather early, at sixteen or seventeen for the boys, fifteen or sixteen for the girls, does not initiate its partners into sexual experience, either generally or with one another (p54 , see also p565-6). There is no dormitory, and marriages are arranged but this is sometimes "prevented" by the young.

In one village (Ladde in 1950), a number of "remarkably goodlooking young boys "practised pederasty in which the "older boys held the younger in their arms, fondled them and performed a number of pantomimes in which they graphically imitated the sex act. But it was always the normal act, and the fact that they did it publicly amid ribald shouts of applause shows that they were entirely innocent of any fear of taboo" (p518).



Sinhalese (India) (unrated) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


"Among Sinhalese, pre-puberty intercourse is regarded to be beastly, a moral defect. I relate this disapproval to the fact that the puberty rite is not performed until menstruation and the young girl is particularly exposed to ritual dangers by such untimely intercourse" (Yalman, 1963:p57, n26)[176]. Until the present century, female puberty and marriage ceremonies were identical, and the existence of both boy- en girlhood "adolescence" was denied[177]. Leach (1961)[178]:


"This is a society in which the individual achieves adult status very young. Girls are considered adult as soon as they have had their first menstruation and they commonly bear children very shortly afterwards. There is probably some tendency for the age at which women have their first pregnancy to rise, but this is not yet obvious. Mothers of fifteen or sixteen years of age are common. Boys usually start getting "married" at about the age of eighteen".



Purum (India) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]




"The Purum have a curious custom, that if a man has a son and a daughter the son must go and sleep in the house of some one who has an unmarried daughter; my informant tells me, "That though they sleep thus they are very careful about their characters". If they are, they are exceptional, for among most of these tribes, much freedom is accorded to unmarried girls, as success in the courts of Venus is a sure passport to the Lushai heaven" (p375).



Veda (India) (unrated) (Forest Vedda: 2-,2,2-,2,-,-;-,-) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Veda child marriage was said to be consummated before puberty (Metschnikoff, [1910:p117])[180]. Shashi (1978:p48)[181]: "The young children start their sexual activities by massaging the older children, and are only then "initiated" into actual intercourse. Intercourse begins at age 5 or 6, initiated by an adolescent or adult: "A big girl teaches a little boy by letting him fondle her breasts and hug her. Then she opens and spreads her legs and makes the little boy lie on her breasts. She shows him how to open her clothes and insert the little penis with his hand"".



Santals (India) (2+, 2+, 3-,3-,2,3;6,4;B1) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


For the Santal living mostly in Bihar and Orissa, reasonably good descriptions of premarital sex were recorded in the 1930s and 1940s, which report of a permissive attitude towards premarital sex (Biswas, 1956[182]; Mukherjea, 1962)[183]. Mukherjea (1962:p392-401) states that Santal children, in consequence of a marriage game "play at coitus". "One Santal narrated to us, "I have seen that during the children's game called Uku Uku, they play at hide and seek and hunt out others from the bushes. During all these, children throw themselves on one another. They embrace in a childish attempt to get out and this physical contact results in sex-encounters with consequent childish coitus. […] Old sandals told us that attempts at coitus indulged in by mere children are very common". The author cites further examples of games resulting in open displays of "childish coitus"[184]. "We gathered that sex-encounters of children are very common in field were they tend cows or buffaloes, and the minimum age for such children was given as four to five". Nevertheless, "As regards the age in which boys and girls receive their first sexual experience, the opinion of the Santals questioned on the point varied. Some put it at 14-15 years with boys who attain puberty, while for girls they gave the age at 12-13 "when the breasts ripen", as they put it. Others put it at 16-17 with males and 13-14 with females. Two educated Santals questioned at different places stated that boys and girls receive their first experience at 10-12 and 9-10 years respectively" (p400). This is supported by communications to Archer, which indicated that boys "start when they are ten or twelve, girls when they are eight or nine"(1974:p55).


Archer (1974:p56)[185] also observed Santal children in their intimacies:


"The scene of a first [sexual] encounter is often the forest. While they are grazing the cattle, boys and girls play "Houses". They appoint village officials. "You are the manjhi. She is manjhi budhi". They make little hearths and pretend to cook rice. "It is then that they are yoked. Later, after dark, the boy and girl come together". "Sometimes a boy and girl play together. The boy goes on all fours. The girl rides on him. Suddenly he turns on his back and holds her. A girl pulls her away. He seizes her legs. If the girl likes it, the boy does it".


"A common game which is sometimes a prelude to encounters is played in the evening. This is oko oko or "Hide and Seek". A boy covers his eyes with his hands. All the boys and girls run away. A girl is waiting for him. He rushes to her and while the others are hiding they hurry down the village street. These encounters do not necessarily end in passionate friendships. They are petty, childish introductions to the act of sex and it is not in fact until the ménarche that Santal girls begin to long at all avidly for "the play of boys". "It is when the flower has blossomed that desire seizes her"[186].


Archer (1974:p78; 1984:p515)[187] adds the following:


"Among the Pardhans, Shamrao Hivale states, "Before marriage both boys and girls live lives of almost complete freedom. Even little children of four or five years indulge in erotic play together and most boys and girls have had their first experiences long before puberty. Elder people are amused and tolerant of the sexual adventures of their children. They appear to object to any attempt to correct them. They take the line that such adventures did them little harm and that in any case youth is a time for freedom and experiment. […]".


"There is, however, no conscious organisation of their sexual life. Unlike Uraons, Hos and Mundas who from an early age segregate their boys and girls and bed them down at night in separate houses, Santals keep their children in their families. Until they are six or seven years old, they sleep near their parents. After that, they are put in separate rooms. If their parents sleep on the walled verandah, their sons and daughters go inside. If a boy lies on the verandah, his parents shift to the courtyard or occupy an inner room. It is when the children are asleep and then in the darkness of the house that their parents cohabit and it is only by accident that a child surprises them together" (Archer, p55).


"Flower friendships" between boys or between girls are "strictly nonsexual" (p86-7). Children acquire sexual knowledge early by hearing conversations of their elders and observing parent coitus and coitus of others (Verma, 1970)[188]. They tend to attempt coitus at an early age and some of their games involve sexual encounter. First actual cohabitation tends to occur around puberty. Pre-marital sex is well tolerated.



Garos (India) (2,2,3-,3-,3-,3-;3,3)(eHRAF) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Among the Garos, conjungal coitus is said to be delayed until puberty[189]. Dalton (1872:p64, as cited by Ronhaar)[190] reports "no restriction to innocent intercourse", boys and girls freely mixing during field labour. Sinha (1966:p43)[191] remarked: "I have seen boys aged from four to seven years playing with bitches, as if performing sexual intercourse. In two or three cases, I noticed the penis of the boy erected, which he was pressing near the vulva of the bitch. On one occasion, I found a boy doing the same with a she-goat". The adults regard it as nonsexual imitation of animal copulation[192], and joke about it. Masturbation[193] and homosexuality are said to be unknown, while "children are not known to indulge in heterosexual intercourse or sexual play till they are physically grown up"(Goswami and Majumdar, 1968:p56-7, 59)[194], despite ample opportunity for conversational instruction. Instead, "Young girls are occasionally married before puberty, and in such cases husbands copulate with them before the attainment of puberty. It is, however, believed that girls before puberty cannot retain the seeds deposited by the male. There is no taboo against sexual act with girls who have yet to attain puberty".


[Additional refs.: Burling (1963)[195]].




Muria Gonds of Bastar (India) (unrated) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Frequently entering ethnosensitive discussions on erotic coming-of-age[196], the Ghotul institution of the Muria was studied by Elwin[197], and later by Gell (1992)[198]. The alleged positive aspects of the institution were never established[199]. Elwin (1968:p127-8):


"From their earliest days in the ghotul the little chlik and motiari play together until gradually, imperceptibly the vaginal entrance is enlarged and the hymen disappears without a tear. "We used to behave', said an elderly man, "exactly like little bulls and cows, sporting together till the bull could penetrate". "When you sleep with a girl night after night", said a chelik, "however small you may be, as long as flesh becomes wood, you try to beat her with it. […]".


"The adults supervise and encourage all the sexual activities that take place in the dormitories. Although at times children as little as two years of age are taken to sleep in the dormitories, they are usually not required to be part of the sex activities until 5 or 6, since if they are made to have sex at 3 or 4 they often "wet their beds [and] wake up crying" (Elwin, 1947:p358).

Elwin (1947:p419-58) gives a detailed analysis of the sexual mores of the ghotul. Quoting some of the Murian attitudes to prepubescent coitus: "Real happiness only comes when you are both mature. Of course the kids do it, but without the falling of water there's little pleasure. It is like eating a raw fruit. There is no sweetness in it. It is like rice without salt" […]. To try to have a girl before she is mature is as hard as for a pig to dig up roots. Sometimes he manages it; it gets the root up and enjoys it. But it prefers its ordinary foods".

The Muria dormitories are called a "happy, exciting world" in contrast, says Elwin (1964:p167)[200], to other Indian villages where there was more child rape than in dormitory villages.

An initiation ceremony includes penile insertion in a lubricated split twig.



Baiga (India) (unrated) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Elwin (1939:p230-2)[201] noted that, apart from playing Houses (with coital implications), Baiga children, who are believed to be born with "a complete equipment of phallic knowledge", improvise games such as "Cow and Bull, Horse and Mare, Cock and Hen, Pig and Sow, and play them with a wealth of realistic detail which reveals considerable physiological knowledge"; all this, of course, in the privacy of the jungle. "[Children's] sexual consciousness is developed very early. […] Even when [parents] see their children indulging in erotic play, they simply laugh tolerantly. "Sometimes we say, "Why do it now? Wait a little". But the children grow excited, so what should they do?".




Nimar Bahalis (India) (unrated) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Fuchs (1950:p94-5)[202] commented on the early knowledge of sex matters in Balahi children. "It is said that small children sometimes imitate the sexual acts of their parents by, as they say, playing "father and mother"[203]. Their parents frown on them, though indulgently, if they see them acting in this way".  Further, "[s]exual intercourse between half-grown boys and girls occurs, but not very frequently, since from childhood they are separated at play and at work. It is more frequent that boys or girls learn homosexual practices from their older companions, and this especially during the hot season when there is little work to do and the children remain the whole day out on the fields grazing the cattle". Sexual intercourse, even after marriage, is not permitted before the ana ceremony has taken place, although "love-affairs between half-grown people are not taken very seriously" (p67). Betrothal takes place at age 6 to 8 (boys), and slightly younger for girls (p126). Soon after menarche, the father-in-law comes to "fetch" her as she is ready to enter married life (p163). Sexual intercourse is commenced immediately, abstinence leads to suspicion of infidelity or impotence. Thus, the Bahali youths "have no incentive for the artful sports of courtship".


Fuchs (1939:p71-2)[204]:


"The Bahalis have for their young people, boys as well as girls, no official introduction to sexual life, such as an initiation ceremony. They attain an early knowledge of such matters from the talk and conduct of their parents and elder brothers and sisters, who speak quite freely and openly of such things even in their ordinary conversations. During the night, the parents, as also the married brothers and sisters and the smallest children, all sleep together in the same narrow hut. There the children see and hear everything that takes place, and so very early acquire a knowledge of sexual affairs. The ritual of birth-ceremonies and marriage-ceremonies contains songs about and favours the discussion of even the most intimate details of married life. The children are of course very interested listeners and are not excluded from such gatherings. […] the children hear all these expressions very often daily, and use them too, at first not knowing the meaning, but that they learn soon enough. […] [Their parents] often take delight in hearing how their little children utter such coarse expressions, "Look", they say, "how our little one can curse and swear although he is still so small!" Sexual intercourse between boys and girls occurs, but not often, since they separate and do not play with each other".


"Soon after the first menstruation, at the latest after the second or third, the girl goes to her husband. According to custom she has long since been married, but she has not yet lived with her boy-husband. This will begin now […]. The people believe that unless the girl is brought to her husband and to sexual intercourse soon after her first menstruation, she will become sterile" and to prevent premarital sexual behaviour. "Old people still remember, however, the times when the girl was not brought to her husband or even married before her sixteenth year. They believe that early sexual intercourse has many evil consequences, that it weakens the physical strength of the young couple and that it produces only weak and sickly offspring".




Telugu (India) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


"Both boys and girls start masturbating at about six. The practice is condemned by adults" (Gregerson, 1983:p232). The Telugu practice "genital greeting" (Money et al., 1991)[205].



Lepcha (Sikkim, India) (2-,2-,2,2,2-,2-;9,9;E) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Gorer (1967)[206] gives a detailed account of Lepcha childhood sexuality[207]. The Lepcha ignore puberty and have no word for it (p315). Female sexual maturing is attributed to copulation, or, in the rare case of a virgin menarche, to the visit of a supernatural Kandoo moong, a sign of good luck. "The majority of women, however, depend on the intervention of a man; the physical signs will start whenever a girl experiences copulation, and there is therefore no stigma attached to grown men forcing little girls of nine or ten, and this occurs occasionally". A child should know who be his num-neu-zong, that is, those people with whom all sexual contact is prohibited, by the time he is nine or ten (p153). There is "no formally marked beginning of sexual life […]. Some men make a distinction between pre-puberty and post-puberty sexual activity, but this distinction is personal and not cultural. Most men, when talking of their past lives, emphasise what was their first "real" sexual experience; but some place this first experience very early, at the age of eleven or twelve. I think the operative distinction in the mind of the Lepcha is whether the sexual adventure formed part of a play, or was undertaken seriously for its own sake" (p316). Children's play of marriage "always end in simulated copulation; if the "bride" is another boy, the children tie their penises together. From about the age of ten children at marriage feasts and similar gatherings are likely sort themselves into pairs and attempt copulation; there is also a certain amount of mutual masturbation among boys. […] Adult Lepchas consider such sex-play extremely funny, though very childish; far from being disapproving of the children, they are more likely to egg them on" (p310). In the name of legalised adultery, boys have their first "real" experience and training with an older married woman, usually an older brother's wife (p161, 326). Betrothal and marriage start at age 8 (girls) and 12 (boys); at the time of writing, most girls were betrothed before, or at, pubescence.



Lodha (West-Bengal, India) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Parents stimulate boys' but not girls' genitalia (Ray, 1965:p96)[208].



Uttar Pradesh (India) (3,3+,3+,4,4,4+;3,1) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


[No data could be traced to date.]



Andamanese (2,2,2,2,2,2;6,7) (India) (eHRAF) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Radcliffe-Brown (1922 [1964:p94])[209]: "According to the account given to me by one informant I gathered that the girl's first menstrual discharge is supposed to be due to sexual intercourse. The man's breath goes into her nose and this produces the dicharge". The pre-1900 Andamanese practiced bethrothal in infancy and marriage after "maturity"; the children are separated during childhood and after an initial get-together the girl returns home or is adopted by one of her father's friends (Man, 1883a:p81/1983b:p136; cf. Paige and Paige, 1981:p86-7)[210]. Brown: "Promiscuous intercourse between the sexes is the rule before marriage and no harm is though of it. The love affairs of the boys and girls are carried on in secret, but the older members of the camp are generally fully aware of all that goes on. What generally happens is that after a time a youth forms an attachment with some girl and a marriage between them results from the love affair" (p70)[211].

Man (p135-6) quotes Peschel in applying the general rule to the observed: "A great many races of mankind are quite indifferent to juvenile unchastity, and only impose strict conduct on their women after marriage". "Notwithstanding", Man continues, "the girls are strikingly modest and childlike in their demeanour […]" and kinship regulations are norm-providing. Cipriani (1961)[212] offers some unclear communications: "The sexual tendencies that prevail in Little Andaman are a strong criticism of Freud's theories on sexual life, but I will not discuss this here" (p493). And then: "Once more I affirm that the evidence of Onge sexual behaviour positively denies Freudian theories with regard to the sexual life of children. Furthermore, young anthropoids and primitive people behave identically in this respect" (p498).



Nicobarese (2,2,2,2,3-,3-;-,-;G3) (India) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


[No data could be traced to date.]




Additional References: India [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]



-- Arunkumar, T. S., Kochumuttom, J., Sankar, P. R., Sobhan, K. & Raju, K. P. (nd) Sexual Behavior Patterns in Thiruvananthapuram. Online article [Oct., 2002:]

-- Joshi et al. (2001)[213]

-- Mehra, S., Savithri, R. & Coutinho, L. (2002) Sexual Behaviour among Unmarried Adolescents in Delhi, India: Opportunities Despite Parental Controls. Paper presented at  IUSSP Regional Population Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, June 10-13

-- Nanda (1990)[214]

-- Sengupta, S. (1990) Erotic Folklore: Its Importance. A Short Note for Interested Scholars, Folklore [Calcutta] 31(358):161-8



Pakistan (Pashtun, Punjabi, Hunsa) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Srinivas (1976:p149)[215] stated that in Rampura,


"[t]he sex urge showed itself from a very young age. According to village opinion, a boy was ready for marriage as soon as he was strong enough to do a man's work on land, and hair had sprouted above his upper lip [[216]]. And a girl was ready for marriage a year or two before attaining puberty. The consummation ceremony was generally held a few months after puberty. Among orthodox Brahmins, however, parents were required to get their daughters married before they came of age. Failure to do so meant not only incurring the wrath of relatives and caste folk but committing a sin".


Villagers were convinced that puberty was synonymous with maturity and a mature girl had to have her sex urge satisfied. It was folly to ignore this (p150, 153). Non-Brahmin girls would be "booked" at ages ten or twelve, the wedding taking place at puberty. According to ECPAT (Nov., 2002), "Since sexual intercourse out of wedlock is prohibited in Pakistan there is no specified legal age of consent. According to the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance the legal age of marriage is 18 years for males and 16 years for girls. However, marriages with children under this age are still valid".


Among the Lushai and other tribes of east Pakistan, Christianity would have ended "[…] the institution of bachelor houses, whereby sexual experimentation by adolescents was encouraged"[217]. Public discussion of child abuse, sexual abuse, and the sexuality of mentally handicapped people is unwelcome in Pakistan, as in some other Asian and Muslim nations[218]. Among the Muslims, a gradual segregation of the sexes ends successful at puberty, when the children are no longer encouraged to mix; menarche is very important in this respect (Donnan, 1988:p91-7)[219]. Rape of young girls occurred "rather frequently. This is understandable, because grown up girls and women are protected, while young girls have more freedom until they start to menstruate" (Sikkel-Buffinga, 1980:p168)[220].

Wilber (1964:p130-1)[221] relates: "Attitudes of prudery surrounding sexual matters on the part of women result in the situation that many girls enter married life in ignorance". Under Islamic code, unchaste daughters may be killed in tribal agencies, and "unmarried daughters are carefully protected after puberty and family members keep watch over young men to prevent them from going astray". "In the Pushtu-speaking areas of West-Pakistan, the unavailability and deprecation of women have encouraged the alternative practice in which the love objects are young boys and homosexual love is part of popular folklore".


In Baluchistan Province, "[s]ome engagements were arranged by parents when the spouses-to-be were small children" (Salzman, 2000:p242-3)[222]. "Girls were usually given in marriage around the onset of puberty at fifteen years, but preferably before. As females were believed to have strong sexual desires, this timing was seen as avoiding problems with premarital sex".


Khan (2000:p17-25)[223] offers a detailed analysis of growing up sexually in Pakistan. Studies detail a high rate of masturbation nosologies.


In a sample of 188 men between the ages 18-30 years, who presented to the outpatient department of the Aga Khan University Hospital, Pakistan, 31.4% and 63.8% of the respondents reported association of physical illness and weakness with masturbation[224]. Responses were 14.9% and 42.6% for nocturnal emissions. Aahung[225] found that most questioned boys aged 11-19 believed that masturbation endangered one's health, and commonly associated it with causing the penis to become crooked or loose. Aagan[226] found that young people feared that their future sexual performance would be negatively affected, that physical weakness, infertility, reduction in penis shape, loss of virginity, or related health problems may result from masturbation. These misconceptions are so deeply rooted in culture and tradition, that researchers may be amazed to discover the hold of some extraordinary myths. For example, male child prostitutes interviewed in the North West Frontier Province believed that among all the sexual practices they knew of, including sex with girls, sex with men or boys, sex with animals, and masturbation, the latter was by far the most sinful. In fact, they believed that if someone masturbated God would get a fever".




"[a]s girls enter puberty and become of marriageable age, they find their mobility and access to opportunities – such as education and employment –severely curtailed, all in the name of preserving their (and their community's) honor (Khan 1998; Mumtaz and Rauf 1996). If a girl violates social norms and is discovered to have engaged in sexual relations, or even flirtation, with a boy then she will be either beaten or killed according to customary laws, or she will be vulnerable to charges of adultery under the Hudood Ordinances that may lead to imprisonment or death. […]The mainstream media and education system do not offer adolescents the information they need. Parents are also not a source of sex education for their children (Qidwai 1996)[[227]]".



Pashtun (Pakistan; Afghanistan) (eHRAF) (®Boy Prostitution) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Lindholm (1982:p134-5)[228] states that a groom


"[…] visits his bride on the third night, a visit eagerly awaited by his sisters, who may drill a hole in the wall in order to view the defloration. The bride, if she is a khan woman, probably will be completely inexperienced sexually. Her mother has given her instructions on the proper treatment of a husband, but this counsel is primarily magical in nature and concerns ways in which the man can be kept in the woman's power. […] But practical advice about sex, according to elite women, is nonexistent. The bride awaits her husband, whom she may have never seen before, in an agony of fear that he may not like her, that he may humiliate her by taking another wife. The husband, often a decade or so older and with some sexual experience, may arrive inebriated. He gives the girl a gift of some sweets and a watch or some jewelry. He then should have sex with his new and very young wife".




"Because marriages consecrate rather than create unities, the length of time taken in putting together a particular match is a measure of what is being accomplished. Some matches are arranged in childhood by brothers or first cousins who wish to keep their families together and, occasionally, by men who wish to make a close personal friendship between themselves (also dostiy) more substantial. More commonly, however, engagements are sealed after long negotiations".




"If, as is usually the case, the couple are both sexually mature, the nik[unavailable] ceremony is repeated, in case the boy, unwittingly or as an oath or curse, should have divorced his wife since the betrothal ceremony. By Moslem law, most kinds of divorce create a legal ban on re-marriage with the same woman—however, as the "marriage" solemnized at the betrothal ceremony has not yet been consummated, this question does not arise. If one or both spouses are still children, the nik[unavailable] is postponed till such time as the parents of the boy permit consummation".



Punjabi (Pakistan, India) (West Punjabi: 3-,3-,3+,4+,4,4;2,2) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


According to Eglar (1960:p92)[231], "[…] marriage is consummated only after [a girl] passed puberty and is between fifteen and eighteen years old". Among rural Punjabi, marriage takes place on average some four years after menarche[232]. Another study, however found that the mean marriage age of 35-55 year old women was slightly higher than menarche age (mean age at menarche 14.31; mean age at marriage 14.60 years)[233].

As detailed to some extent by Rose[234], "[t]he age at which betrothal may be effected is not fixed, and it varies among different tribes and in different localities, so that it is impossible to generalize regarding it" (p417). Dehli Muhammadans would practice prenatal betrothal (Rose,1917:p53-4)[235].



Hunsa, Hunza (Himalayas) [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Conception and birth are processes known from an early age (Bircher, 1942 [1948:p77])[236]. Children hear adult conversations on these issues, and therefore are not in the need of further education "when the capacities of procreation awake". No child marriages [p78]. Marriage taking place at age 16-18; in case of a low age of the bride, the mother of the groom would sleep between the married ones until the girl is "ripe enough" for the marital act. A girl is marriageable from age 15 [237].


"In Hunza formerly daughters and sons married according to the wishes of the parents. Some marry their sons in childhood when they are young and some when they are grown up. Tose who have no land and people with many sons mostly delay in marrying their sons. A man with only one son marries his son in childhood" (p182).




Bangladesh [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


In early days, marrigeable girls from Comilla District, Bangladesh were described as being infants or slightly older[238]. As reviewed by Keddie (1979:p325)[239] the average age of marriage among Muslim women was 12.9 in 1961, in 1968 it was 15.9 and by 1976 it had risen to 17.4 (cf. Zaman)[240].

Girls may be married off at the onset of puberty[241]. Islam and Mahmud (1996)[242] (orig. footnotes inserted):


"Traditionally, young age at marriage and early childbearing have been encouraged in Bangladesh. According to Aziz and Maloney (1985)[[243]], Bangladeshi children, especially in rural areas, are socialized to assume their respective male and female roles well before puberty. This phenomenon has been observed more strictly among girls than boys, because of the impact of girls' behaviour during adolescence both on their own reputation and that of their family. Before the end of childhood, a girl is expected to begin learning proper decorum for a female so that she will be able to play the part well once puberty begins. The most dangerous stage of life of a Bangladeshi girl is the period following the onset of menstruation when a number of changes occur in her body, making her physically mature. At this stage, several restrictions are imposed by society on her movements, dress, food and freedom to make her own choices. When a young girl grows up, her parents keep her movements under surveillance. Such restrictions on the movement of unmarried girls and women sometimes serve to impede her education. She is advised at all costs to protect her virginity until marriage (Maloney and others, 1981)[[244]]. In rural Bangladesh there are many social pressures to "marry off" pubescent girls (Aziz and Maloney, 1985)[[245]]. If the marriage of a pubescent girl is delayed, her parents, and sometimes the girl herself, are made to feel guilty. Sometimes neighbours and even relatives criticize parents if they have not married off their daughters soon after the onset of menarche. In such a situation, parents of poor socio-economic standing may begin to think of their daughter as a burden".


Khan et al.(2002)[246] observed that the age of marriage lies around 15 rurally. Control on female sexuality is organised through attaching negative values to any discussion of sexuality, controlling mobility and friendships with members of the opposite sex, and discouraging access to relevant literature. "Girls are often informed about sexual intercourse just a few days before marriage", a responsibility taken by sisters-in-law, married friends or some elder female relative. Submission is stressed. Both information and experience are more pronounced in boys.

A 1999 report[247] found that most girls in the study reported that they did not have any knowledge about menstruation before they experienced it. Similarly, "[m]ost boys reported that they did not have any idea about wet dreams before they experienced them. As they did not know that these are normal phenomena, when they experienced them, they become confused as to whether they were sick and in the long run they would visit healthcare providers. They mostly reported going to traditional healers for this purpose".


"Regarding sexual health, many boys believed that masturbation was bad for one's health. They mentioned that it causes weakness of the body, and would change the shape of penis. It was also commonly believed that this activity might have some long-term adverse effects. Both boys and girls reported knowing of commercial sex workers and brothels. They stated that young boys and young men go to brothels".




"In each of the study areas, there was at least one adolescent boy participant who knew about an adult male who was having sex with adolescent boys, and adolescent boys who were having sex with boys of similar age. This activity was termed as 'jeena.' Sometimes the men who were doing so provided incentives to their young partners. Some of the men were said to have forced young boys to have anal sex".



[Additional refs.: Rahman, M. M. (1986) Age at consummation in Bangladesh, Chittagong University Studies (Science) 23:32-7]



Index to Section: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]


Age of Consent Act (India), 8

Andamanese, 33

anna biye ("another marriage"), 22

arrow marriage, 4

Bahalis, Nimar, 1; 31

Baiga, 1; 31

Baluchistan (Pakistan), 19

Bangladesh, 11; 21

Basavis, 3

Bedias, 4

Bengali, 22


prenatal, 21

Bhunjias, 5

Brahman, 24

Chamars, 25

devadasi belt, 4

Devadasis, 3

Dommara, 4

Garo, 1; 29

Gond and Bhumia of Eastern Mandla, 26

Hill Maria, 1; 26

Hill Saoras, 26

Hinduism, 14

India, 1; 22

"child" and age-stratified marriage and consummation, 6

"child" prostitution, 2

age of consent, 15

boy prostitution, love of boys, 5

Child Marriage Restraint Act, 10

menarche, 13

regulation of marriage / consummation age, 11

village life, 15

Joginis, 3

Kondabore, 5

laws of Manu, 8

Lepcha, 1; 32

Lingayats, 18

Lodha, 1; 33

Lushai, 19

Marathas, 11

Maria Gond, 1; 26

marriage, India

to arrow, 4

to God, 3

Muralis, 3

Muria Gonds, 1; 30

Nagas, 1; 24

natun biye ("new marriage"), 22

Nayar, 25

Nicobarese, 1; 34

Pakistan, 18

Pashtun, 20

age stratified homosexuality, 5

Pukhtun. See Pashtun

Punjabi, 20

Purum, 27

Rajbansis, 11

Rājpūts, 24

Santals, 1; 28

sati, 7

Sinhalese, 1; 27

Tāli Rites, 12

teachings of Angira, 8

Telugu, 32

Todas, 1; 25

Uttar Pradesh, 1; 33




Notes   [up] [Contents] [Ethnographic Index]

[Last updated 011202]



[1] Nag, M. (1995) Sexual behaviour in India with risk of HIV/AIDS transmission, Health Transition Rev 5, Suppl.:293-305. See also Trivedi, M. (1990) Leisure, Development and Tribal Social Structure. Paper for the International Sociological Association

[2] For specific statements, see Srinivasan, A. (1984) Temple Prostitution and Community Reform. Dissertation, Cambridge; Marglin, F.A. (1985) Wives of the God-King: the Rituals of the Devadasis of Puri. New Delhi: Oxford University Press; Story, S. C. K. (1987) Nityasumangali: The Devadasi Tradition in South India. New Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass; Shankar, J. (1994) Devadasi Cult; A Sociological Analysis. New Delhi: Asish Publishing House; Tarachand, K. C. (1992) Devadasi Custom. New Delhi: Reliance Publishing House; Singh, N. K. (1997) Divine Prostitution. New Delhi: A. P. H. Publishing Corporation

[3] Kane, J. (1998) Sold for Sex. Brookfield: Arena

[4] UNICEF India, Richard Young, "Understanding Underlying Factors", Child Workers in Asia, January-June 1996

[5] CATW Fact Book, citing "Human Smuggling from Bangladesh at alarming level", Reuters, 26 May 1997, citing Trafficking Watch Bangladesh

[6] Mowli, V. C. (1992) "Jogin": Girl Child Labour Studies. New Delhi, Sterling Publishers Private Limited

[7] E.g., Tandon, A. (2001) When facades belie tough interiors, Ghandigarh Tribune, April 27

[8] Cf. Bullough V. L. & Bullough B. (1987) Women and Prostitution: A Social History. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, p86-8

[9] E.g., Kersenboom-Story, S. C. (1987) Nityasumangali. Dissertation, University of Utrecht

[10] Kersenboom (1987:p310-23) mentioned training in arts and wedding ceremonies starting at ages 5 to 9. " 'Muralis' are girls dedicated to god Khandoba in their infancy or early childhood by their parents. "Poor deluded women promise to sacrifice their first born daughters if Khandoba will make them mothers of many children. Then after the vow the first born girl is offered to Khandoba and set apart for him by tying a necklace of seven cowries around the little girl's neck. When she becomes of marriageable age, she is formally married to Khandoba or dagger of Khandoba and become his nominal wife. Henceforth she is forbidden to become the wedded wife of any man, and the result is that she usually leads an infamous life earning a livelihood by sin". Jogan Shankar, (1990) Devadasi Cult. New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House, p50, citing Fuller (1990:p103). As cited by Jamanadas (2000)

[11] E.g., Young girls initiated into Jogini system, The Hindu, June 22, 1999

[12]Power, C. (2000) Becoming A "Servant Of God". Devadasis are Dalit women sold into sexual slavery. Is this the end of a cruel tradition? Newsweek, June 25

[13]Comprehensive Information on Indian Education on the Occasion of the Celebrations of the 50th Year of Indian Independence. Government Of India Ministry Of Human Resource Development with the National Informatics Centre (NIC). Online data, 2002

[14] Menon, M. (1997) Tourism and Prostitution. In The Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation, Huges, D. M. et al., 1999

[15] The name of this community of women would change from state to state. For example, in Orissa, they were known as "maharis", in Andhra Pradesh they were called "devganikas" or "joginis" and in Karnataka, they were "basavis" or basvis.

[16]Remedios, Sh. & Freidman, R. I. (1996) India's Shame: Sexual Slavery and Political Corruption Are Leading to An AIDS Catastrophe, The Nation, April 8

[17]Goel, S. S. (1999) Girl Child Prostitution, Society's Responsibility- Indian Scenario, CBI Bulletin 7,4:[15]

[18] Trivedi, H. R., A Survey on Exploitation of Scheduled Castes Women Undertaken by the Harijan Sevak Sangh for the Committee

[19] Stanley, J. M. (1977) Special Time, Special Power: The Fluidity of Power in a Popular Hindu Festival, J Asian Stud 37,1:27-43

[20] Captain & Mrs. Swinton (1859) Journal of a Voyage with Coolie Emigrants from Calcutta to Trinidad. London: Alfred W. Bennett, p15. Reprinted in Ramdin, R. (1994) The Other Middle Passage: Journal of A Voyage from Calcutta to Trinidad, 1858. London: Hansib Publications Ltd.

[21] Brongersma, E. (1987) Jongensliefde, Deel 1. Amsterdam: SUA

[22] Lingānanda (1990) India, in Dynes, W. R. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. New York & London: Garland Publ. Inc.Vol I, p586-93

[23] Gopal, K. (1969) Schon im Kama Sutra, in Italiaander (Ed.) Weder Krankheit noch Verbrechen. Hamburg: Gala

[24] Drew, D. & Drake, J. (1969) Boys for Sale. New York: Brown Book Co.

[25] O'Callaghan, S. ([1969]) The White Slave Traffic: A Survey of the Traffic in Women and Children in the East Nelpaperback Ed.

[26] Gupta, Ch. (2002) (Im)possible Love and Sexual Pleasure in Late-Colonial North India, Modern Asian Studies 36,1:195-221

[27] Rahman, T. (1989) Boy Love in the Urdu Ghazal, Paidika 2,1:10-27. Reprinted as Rahman, T. (1990) Boy-Love in the Urdu Ghazal, Ann Urdu Stud 7:1-20. See also lateral remarks in Russell, R. (1995) The Urdu Ghazal—A Rejoinder to Frances W. Pritchett and William L. Hanaway, Ann Urdu Stud 10:96-112; Faruqi, Sh. R. (1999) Conventions of Love, Love of Conventions: Urdu Love Poetry in the Eighteenth Century, Ann Urdu Stud 14:3-32; Naim, C. M. (1979) The theme of homosexual [pederastic] love in pre-modern Urdu poetry, in Studies in the Urdu Gazal and Proze Fiction. Madison: South Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin, Publ. No. 5

[28] Wilber, D. N. (1964) Pakistan. New Haven: HRAF Press

[29]Naz Foundation International / NFI / Praajak Development Society / Prakriti-Sahodaran

 (1999) Male Reproductive and Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS in South Asia: A Regional Consultation Meeting for Males Who Have Sex with Males. Calcutta, India, March 4-7 []

[30]Khan, Sh. (June, 1996)  Culture, Sexualities, and Identities: Men Who Have Sex with Men in South Asia [paper at]

[31] Ismail, M. / NGO Coalition on Child Rights – NWFP / UNICEF (nd) Community Perceptions of Male Child Sexual Abuse in North West Frontier Province, Pakistan; NGO Coalition on Child Rights –NWFP / UNICEF ([1998?]) Child Abuse and Crimes against Children in North West Frontier Province (Pakistan). Peshawar: NGO Coalition on Child Rights; Khan, A. (June, 2000) Adolescents and Reproductive Health in Pakistan: A Literature Review. Final Report. The Population Council, Pakistan Office, page vi, 28

[32] Sahil (n.d.) Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in Pakistan, an Overview. Islamabad: Sahil

[33] Reid, T. (2002) Kandahar Comes Out of the Closet, The Times of London, Jan. 12th

[34] Bancroft-Hinchey, T. (2002) Sodomy Returns to Afghanistan, Pravda 03-27

[, 29 Oct. 2002]

[35]Amnesty International(1998) Afghanistan, Flagrant abuse of the right to life and dignity, ASA 11/03/98

[36] Afghan man survives wall ordeal, BBC News, Saturday, Jan. 16, 1999

[37]Sarawathi, T. S. (2000) Adult-child continuity in India: Is adolescence a myth or an emerging reality? in Comunian, A. L. & Gielen, U. P. (Eds.) International Perspectives on Human Development. Lengerich, Germany: Pabst Science Publishers. p431-48

[38] Agarwala, S. N. (1957) The Age at Marriage in India, Population Index 23,2:96-107

[39] Banerjee, K. (1998) Marriage change in rural India, 1921-1981, Hist Fam 3,1:63-94

[40]Sir Richard Burton (transl., 1883) The Kama Sutra of Vatsayayana. See also hint by Ali, D. (2002) Anxieties of Attachment: The Dynamics of Courtship in Medieval India, Modern Asian Studies 36,1:103-40, at p129n91

[41] Comfort, A. (1964) The Koka Shastra. New York: Stein and Day.

[42] The practice in ancient India was swayambara, which essentially meant that the women selected her husband of her choice. Sources on the timing varied between three menstrual periods and three years postmenarchally. It seems that child marriage started as a compulsion in the Hindu society and followed as a culture thenceforth. It has perhaps rightly been suggested, that this custom started during the Muslim invasion, when it was fraught upon by families to have an unmarried adult woman in the house, lest she be sexually abused. Since child marriage did not involve the concept of swayambara this is not according to Hinduism, and hence, some say, anti Hindu. See also Duncan and Derrett, 1974:p27).

[43] Thomas, P. (1964) Indian Women Through the Ages. Bombay [etc.]: Asia Publishing House

[44] As cited by Jamanadas, K. (2000) Decline and Fall of Buddhism (A Tragedy in Ancient India). Ambedkar Library, Jabalpur, Gondwana, Dalitstan

[45] Buchanan, F. H. (1807) A Journey from Madras through the Counties of Mysore, Canara and Malabar [etc.]. London: T. Cadell & W. Davies. Vol.1, p52, 259-60. Quoted by Caldwell, J. C., Reddy, P. H. & Caldwell, P. (1983) The Causes of Marriage Change in South India, Populat Stud 37,3:343-61, see p345. Also Kulkarni, P. M. Savanur, L R. & Gokhale, C. V. (1986) Increase in Age at Marriage in Rural Karnataka : Evidence from a Repeat Survey, Demography India 15,2:149-63, at p158

[46] Sampath, B. N. (1972) Child marriage: revision of marriageable age and its effective implementation, Lawasia 3:386-402; Gupta, G. R. (1972) Religiosity, economy and patterns of Hindu marriage in India, Int J Sociol Fam 2:1-11

[47] Vidyasagar, E. Ch. (1856) Marriage of Hindu Widows. Calcutta: Sanscrit Press, p31; Scott (1960:p72-3)

[48]Another translation reads (ch. IX, r94): "A man, aged thirty years, shall marry a maiden of twelve who pleases him, or a man of twenty-four a girl eight years of age; if (the performance of) his duties would (otherwise) be impeded, (he must marry) sooner"., Bühler, G. (transl., 1886) The Laws of Manu (Sacred Books of the East, vol. 25)

[49] Sumner, W. G. (1906) Folkways. Boston [etc.]: Ginn & Co.

[50] Risley, H. H. (1891) The Study of Ethnology in India, J Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 20:235-63, at p262

[51]Heimsath, Ch. H. (1962) The Origin and Enactment of the Indian Age of Consent Bill, 189, J Asian Stud 21,4:491-504

[52] Sen, A. (1980-1) Hindu Revivalism in Action - The Age of Consent Bill Agitation in Bengal, Indian Hist Rev [India] 7,1-2:160-84

[53] Sinha, M. (1995) Colonial Masculinity: The 'Manly Englishman' and the 'Effeminate Bengali' in the late Nineteenth Century. Manchester: Manchester University Press

[54]For Indian historical accounts of the legislative discourse, see Sinha, M. (1995) Nationalism and Respectable Sexuality in India, Genders 21:30-57; Vatsa, R. S. (1971) The Movement against Infant-Marriages in India 1860-1914, J Indian Hist [India] 49,1-3:289-303; Burton, A. (1998) From Child Bride to "Hindoo Lady": Rukhmabai and the Debate on Sexual Respectability in Imperial Britain, Am Hist Rev 103,4:1119-46; Burton, A. (1999) Conjugality on trial: the Rukhmabai case and the debate on Indian child-marriage in late Victorian Britain, in Robb, G. & Erber, N. (Eds.) Disorder in the Court: Trials and Sexual Conflict at the Turn of the Century. New York: New York University Press, p33-56

[55] Fischer, H. Th. (1952) Huwelijk en Huwelijksmoraal bij Vreemde Volken. Utrecht [Holland]: De Haan

[57]Fehlinger, H. ([1921]) Sexual Life of Primitive People. London: Black

[58] Oman, J. C. ([1907]) The Brahmins, Theists and Muslims of India. London

[59] DeMause, L. (1991) The Universality of Incest, J Psychohist 19,2:123-164; DeMause, L. (1998) The history of child abuse, J Psychohist 25,3:216-36

[60]Strangely, this is an Annamite (Vietnam) proverb, heard in Tonquin by Jacobus X ([1893]1898, I:p21), op.cit.

[61] Edward[e]s [& Masters] (1963:p133-4), citing Dr. Jacobus: (nom de plume), L'Ethnologie du Sens Genitale. Paris, 1935, a book I have been unable to locate [footnote]. See Edwardes, A. & Masters, R. E. L. (1963) The Cradle of Erotica. N.Y.: The Julian Press. Also in DeMause, L. (1994) The History of Childhood As the History of Child Abuse, Aesthema 11:48-62

[62] Mayo, K. (1927) Mother India. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co. Vol. 2, p47 [footnote]

[63] Mayo, Mother India, p.25. Also see G. Morris Carstairs, The Twice-Born: A Study of a Community of High Caste Hindus. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967; Shakuntala Devi, The World of Homosexuals. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1977; Johann Jacob Meyer, Sexual Life in Ancient India: A Study of the Comparative History of Indian Culture. Two Vols. New York: Dutton, 1930 [orig.footnote]

[64] A. K. Sur, Sex and Marriage in India: An Ethnohistorical Survey. Bombay: Allied Publisbers, 1973; I have adjusted 1921 census figures by 20 percent to allow for overstating of age, in accordance with evidence given in the census itself; see Harry F.Field, After Mother India. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1929, p48-51. On the difficulty of enforcing child marriage laws in India, see David and Vera Mace. Marriage: East and West. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1959, pl90-201 [orig.footnote]

[65]Bullough V. L. (1981) Mahatma Gandhi, Med Asp Hum Sex 15:11-2. Mahatma Gandhi was married at age 13 to a girl about his own age and at age 37 took a vow of sexual abstinence. In spite of this vow, he found a need to fondle prepubescent and early adolescent girls. He took such girls to bed with him to overcome, he said, his "shivering fits" in the night. His female companions, who came from his inner circle — all certified virgins or young brides — entered his bed naked in order to warm him with their bodies. Some of them also administered enemas to him. Among the young girls, there was rivalry as to who would sleep with him, and one of his girl disciples reported that his bed companions had a difficult time in restraining their sexual impulses since he often rubbed against them and touched them in erotic places. Although his closemouthed house guardians were fearful of public reaction if news of these "paedophilic" sexual interactions were publicized, Gandhi continued to engage in them until his death. Gandhi did not have sexual intercourse with them, but obviously the touching and feeling were very important to him. Bullough, E. V. L. & Bullough, B. (1996) Problems of Research into Adult/Child Sexual Interaction, Iss Child Abuse Accus [online] 8,2. Paper originally presented at the Western Region Annual Conference for the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, San Diego, California, April, 1996

[66] Scott, G. R. (1960) Curious Customs of Sex and Marriage. New York: Key Publ. Co.

[67] Karve, I. (1969) Kinship Organization in India. Bombay [etc.]: Asia Publ. House. 2nd ed.

[68] Ishawaran, K. (1968) Shivapur: A South Indian Village. London: Routledge & K. Paul

[69]Keddie, N. R. (1979) Problems in the Study of Middle Eastern Women, Int J Middle East Stud 10,2:225-40

[70]Whitehead, J. (1996) Bodies of Evidence, Bodies of Rule: The Ilbert Bill, Revivalism, and Age of Consent in Colonial India, Sociol Bull 45,1:29-54. Cf. Whitehead, J. (1995) Modernising the Motherhood Archetype: Public Health Models and the Child Marriage Act of 1929, Contributions to Indian Sociol 29,1-2:187-210

[71] E.g., Rush, F. (1980) The Best Kept Secret. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, p74-9

[72] Luschinsky, M. S. (1962) The Life of Women in a Village of North India. Dissertation, Cornell University

[73] Luschinsky, M. S. (1963) The Impact of Some Recent Indian Government Legislation on the Women of an Indian Village, Asian Survey 3,12:573-83

[74] Singh, M. (1992) Changes in age at marriage of women in rural north India, J Biosoc Sci 24,1:123-30

[75]See also a comparison of four studies by Kapadia, K. M. (1955) Marriage and Family in India. London [etc.]: Oxford University Press, p138-66

[76]"Though illegal, child marriage is popular in parts of India", New York Times Report, May 11, 1998

[77] Nagi, B. S.Trends in Age at Marriage, Guru Nanak J Sociol 11,1:31-40

[78] Item in The Independent (9/1/1999), quoted in Somerset, C. (2000) Early Marriage: Whose Right to Choose? Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Children. London

[79] Nair, P. S. & Koteshwar, R. K. (1987) Female age at marriage in Northern Karnataka, Soc Change 17,3:65-70

[80] Enthoven, R.E. ([1920]) The Tribes and Castes of Bombay. Delhi: Asian Publication Services, 1920, repr. 1990 and 1997. Vol. III, p39

[81] Bloom, D. E. & Reddy, P. H. (1986) Age Patterns of Women at Marriage, Cohabitation, and First Birth in India, Demography 23,4:509-23

[82] Official figures seem to underscore the prevalence of this ideology. According to the same 1975 statistics, marriage occurred from 14.2 (rural Madhya Pradesh) to 19.4 (Urban Goa, Daman and Diu), but on average 16.3 (rural) and 16.9 (urban). Ages of menarche are not included.

[83]Chandrasekhar, S. (1954) The Family in India, Marr & Family Living16,4:336-42

[84]Rele, J. R. (1962) Some Aspects of Family and Fertility in India, Populat Stud 15,3:267-78

[85] Mandelbaum, D. G. (1974) Human Fertility in India. Berkeley [etc.]: University of California Press

[86] Agarwala, S. N. (1962) The Age at Marriage in India. Cited by Sattar, A. (1978) The Sowing of Seeds: The Sociology of Primitive Sex. Dacca, Bangladesh: Adeylebros & Co.

[87] Or prenatal marriage, petey bibaha.

[88] Ramadas, G. (1928) Marriage customs in South India, Man in India 8:136-45

[89] Dubey, S. R. & Dubey, Bh. R. (1999) Child Marriage in Rajasthan, Development 42,1:75-7

[90] Joseph, E. (1911) Customary Law of the Rohtak District, 1910. Lahore: Superintendent, Government Printing. Cited by Chowdhry, P. (1998) Sexuality, Unchastity and Fertility: Economy of Production and Reproduction in Colonial Haryana, in Chen, M. A. (Ed.) Widows in India: Social Neglect and Public Action. New Delhi: Sage Publication, p91-123, n32

[91] Good, A. (1982) The female bridegroom: rituals of puberty and marriage in South India and Sri Lanka, Social Analysis 11:35-55. Cf. Good, A. (1991) The Female Bridegroom: A Comparative Study of Life Crisis Rituals in South India and Sri Lanka. Oxford: Clarendon

[92] Dube, S. C. (1948) The arrow marriage, Eastern Anthropol 2,1:22-6. Cf. Dube, S. C. (1953) Token pre-puberty marriage in Middle India, Man 53:18-9

[93] Cf. Mishra, M. K. (2000)The Kind Tiger and the Truthful Cow: Folk Discourse in Oral and Written Literature, Folklore [e-journal] Vol. 14:75-85, at p84: "Kondabore is a symbolic ritual of the Bhunjias where the girl is married to an arrow before she reaches puberty. But if a girl attains puberty before the Kondabora rite, she is considered sinful and the house, as well as their god becomes impure. The common practice among the Bhunjia is that if a girl attains puberty in her father's house before the Kondabora, she is exiled to the jungle and tied to a tree till her uncle or close relatives rescue her".

[94] Seligman, C. G. (1935) Bow and Arrow Symbolism, Eurasia Septentrionalis Antiqua [Helsinki] IX

[95] Thurston, E. (1906) Ethnographic Notes in Southern India. Madras: Government Press, p35 [orig.footnote]

[96] Ibid., p34 [orig.footnote]

[97] Stone, L. (2000) Kinship and Gender. Oxford: Westview Press. 2nd ed. Cf. Fruzzetti, L. M. (1984) Kinship and Ritual in Bengal: Anthropological Essays. New Delhi: South Asian Publishers, p159

[98]Dumont, L. (1964) Marriagge in India, the present state of the question: Postscript to part 1-2, Nayar and Newar, Contr Indian Sociol 7:77-98

[99] Gough, E. K. (1955) Female Initiation Rites on the Malabar Coast, J Royal Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 85,1-2:45-80

[100] Gough, E. K. (1952) Changing Kinship Usages in the Setting of Political and Economic Change Among the Nayars of Malabar, J Royal Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 82,1:71-88

[101]Gough, E. K. (1959)The Nayars and the Definition of Marriage, J Royal Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 89,1:23-34

[102]The Coasts of East Africa and Malabar, p124

[103] Peter, H. R. H. (1963) A Study of Polyandry. The Hague: Mouton

[104] Battacharyya, N. N. (1968) Indian Puberty Rites. Calcutta, p8. Cited by Delaney, J., Lupton, M. J. & Toth, E. (1988) The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation. Rev.ed. Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press, p31

[105] Gough, K. (1965) A Note on Nayar Marriage, Man 65:8-11

[106] Panikkar K. M. (1918) Some Aspects of Nayar Life, J Royal Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 48:254-93

[107] Ronhaar, J. H. (1931) Woman in Primitive Motherright Societies. Groningen: Wolters/ London: D. Nutt, p333-4

[108] Gupta, A. et al. (1997) Touch Me, Touch-me-not: Women, Plants and Healing.. Kali for Women. ¨p66-91 Women's Beliefs about Disease and Health

[109] Datta, B. & Gupta, D. (1981) The age of menarche in classical India, Ann Hum Biol 8,4:351-9

[110]Singh, M. M., Devi, R. & Gupta, S. S. (1999) Awareness and health seeking behaviour of rural adolescent school girls on menstrual and reproductive health problems, Indian J Med Sci 53,10:439-43

[111]Garg, S., Sharma, N., Sahay, R. (2001) Socio-cultural aspects of menstruation in an urban slum in Delhi, India, Reprod Health Matters 9(17):16-25

[112] Rao, S., Joshi, S. & Kanade, A. (1998) Height velocity, body fat and menarcheal age of Indian girls, Indian Pediatr 35,7:619-28

[113] Reddy, P. H. & Modell, B. (1997) The Baigas of Madhya Pradesh: a demographic study, J Biosoc Sci 29,1:19-31. Mean age at first marriage was 16.6 years.

[114]Agarwal, D. K,. Agarwal, K. N., Upadhyay, S. K., Mittal, R., Prakash, R. & Rai, S. (1992) Physical and sexual growth pattern of affluent Indian children from 5 to 18 years of age, Indian Pediatr 29,10:1203-82

[115] Sharma, S. S. & Shukla, N. B. (1992) Menarcheal age among Indian sportswomen, Br J Sports Med 26,2:129-31. The menarche of the sportswomen was significantly delayed, to age 13.56.

[116] Chatterjee, S. & Mandal, A. (1991) Physical growth pattern for girls (9-17 yr) from rural West Bengal, Indian J Med Res 94:346-50

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[118] Singh, S. P. & Malhotra, P. (1988) Secular shift in menarcheal age of Patiala (India) schoolgirls between 1974 and 1986, Ann Hum Biol 15,1:77-80. According to this study, the median ages at menarche (by probits) of higher social class girls were 12.90 +/- 0.64 years in 1974 and 12.54 +/- 0.13 years in 1986, and of lower social class girls 14.40 +/- 0.47 years in 1974 and 13.65 +/- 0.18 years in 1986. The secular shift per decade in higher and lower social class girls is 0.30 years and 0.63 years, respectively. See also Chakraborti, I. & Sinha, A. K. (1991) Declining age of menarche in West Bengal, J Indian Med Assoc 89,1:10-3

[119] Clegg, E. J. (1989) The growth of Melanesian and Indian children in Fiji, Ann Hum Biol 16,6:507-28

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[123]Francoeur, R. T. (1990) Current religious doctrines of sexual and erotic development in childhood, in Perry, M. E. (Ed.) Handbook of Sexology volume VII: Childhood and Adolescent Sexology. Amsterdam: Elsevier, p80-112

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[125]Mother India, p25-8

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[131] Krishna, J. & Nayar, V. (1997) India, in Francoeur, R. T. (Ed.) The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. New York: Continuum, Vol. 2. Quoted from the online edition

[132] Alex , G. (2001) Children and Sexuality among South Indian "Untouchables". Paper for the International Conference on 'Children in their Places', June 21-23, The Centre for the Study of Health, Sickness and Disablement (CSHSD), Brunel University, West London, UK. From the abstract. Part on author's oncoming PhD thesis [personal communication]

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[137] Poffenberger, Th. (1981) Child rearing and social structure in rural India, in Korbin, J. (Ed.) Child Abuse and Neglect: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, p71-95

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[141]Sharma, V., Sharma, A. et al. (1996) Sexual Behaviour of Adolescent Boys-A Cause for Concern, Sex & Marit Ther 11,2:147-51; Sharma, V. & Sharma, A. (1997) Adolescent boys in Gujarat, India: Their sexual behavior and their knowledge of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome and other sexually transmitted diseases, J Developm & Behav Pediatr 18,6: 399-404

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[144]Tikoo, M. (1997) Sexual attitudes and behaviors of school students (grades 6-12) in India, J Sex Res 34,1:77-84

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[146]Abraham, L. (2000) True Love, Time Pass, Bhai-Behen… Heterosexual Relationships among the Youth in a Metropolis. Paper presented at Convention Reproductive Health in India: New Evidence and Issues. Tata Management Training Centre, Pune, Maharastra, India. February 28 - March 1. Abraham, L. (2002) Bhai-behen, true love, time pass: Friendships and sexual partnerships among youth in an Indian metropolis, Culture, Health & Sexuality 4,3:337-53

[147] See also Ramakrishna, J. et al. (2001) Boy-girl Relations: Cultural Influences on Sexual Perceptions and Behaviours among Adolescents in South India. Paper for presentation at the 3rd IASSCS Conference in Melbourne, 1-3 Oct. 2001, p7-11

[148] Sarma, J. (1960) Puberty, marriage, and childbirth among the Panggi and the Minyong Abor women, Anthropos 55:96-113

[149]Chekki, D. A. (1968) Some aspects of marriage among the Lingayats, Man in India 48, June:124-32

[150] Fruzzetti, L. M. (1982) The Gift of a Virgin: Women, Marriage, and Ritual in a Bengali Society. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press; Fruzzetti, L. M. (1975) Conch Shell Bangles, Iron Bangles: An Analysis of Women, Marriage, and Ritual in Bengal. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms. 1992 copy

[151] Inden, R. B. (1977) Kinship in Bengali Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

[152] Klass, M. (1978) From Field to Factory: Community Structure and Industrialization in West Bengal. Philadelphia, Pa.: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, p80

[153] "A so-called "tribal" people, speaking a language of the Munda-Kol linguistic family, and, as far as is known, the original inhabitants of the Chota Nagpur region".

[154] Klass, M. (1966) Marriage rules in Bengal, Am Anthropol 68,4:951-70

[155] Roy, M. (1975) Bengali Women. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

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[157] Minturn, L. & Hitchcock, J. T. (1963) The Rājpūts of Khalapur, in Whiting, B. B. (Ed.) Six Cultures: Studies of Child Rearing. New York: Wiley, p207-361

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[159]Fawcett, F. (1903) The Kondayamkottai Maravars, a Dravidian Tribe of Tinnevelly, Southern India, J Royal Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 33:57-65

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[164] Furer-Haimendorf, Ch. Von (1938) The Morung System of the Konyak Nagas, Assam, J Royal Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 68:349-78

[165] Watt, G. (1887) The Aboriginal Tribes of Manipur, J Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 16:346-70, at p365-6

[166]Briggs, G. W. (1920 [1975)] The Chamars. Delhi: B.R. Publishing Corporation

[167] Gough, K. (1961) Nayar: Central Kearla, in Schneider, D. M. & Gough, K. (Eds.) Matrilineal Kinship. Berkeley & Los Angelos, p298-404

[168] Rivers, W. H. R. (1906) The Todas. New York: MacMillan & Co.

[169]Peter (1963:p260), op.cit.: "It is looked upon as a great shame for a girl to start menstruating before this [defloration] has been done […]".

[170] Jolly, J. (transl., 1880) The Institutes of Vishnu. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 7. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, XXVI, r41, p109

[171]Walker, A. R. (1986) The Toda of South India. Delhi: Hindustan

[172] "Chief among these was the tale that the maternal uncle would die and be ashamed in the afterworld if the girl did not undergo the traditional defloration. Another story argued that the girl would suffer defloration in the afterworld by a karumba using a grain pounder".

[173] Grigson, W.V. (1938) The Maria Gonds of Bastar. London: Oxford University Press

[174]Fuchs, S. (1960) The Gond and Bhumia of Eastern Mandla. London: Asia Publishing House

[175]Elwin, V. (1955) The Religion of an Indian Tribe. London [etc.]: Oxford University Press

[176] Yalman, N.  On the Purity of Women in the Castes of Ceylon and Malabar, J Royal Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 93,1:25-58

[177] Furstenberg, Jr., F. F. (1998) When Will Teenage Childbearing Become a Problem? The Implications of Western Experience for Developing Countries, Stud Fam Plann 29,2:137-53, at p144

[178] Leach, E. R. (1961) Pul Eliya, A Village in Ceylon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[179] Shakespear, J. (1909) The Kuki-Lushai Clans, J Royal Anthropol Instit Great Britain & Ireland 39:371-85

[180] Metschnikof, E. ([1910]) Studien über die Natur des Menschen. Leipzig: Von Veit & Co.

[181] Shashi, S.S. (1978) Night Life of Indian Tribes. Delhi: Agarn Prakarltan

[182] Biswas, P.C. (1956) Santals of the Santal Parganas. Delhi: Bharatiya Adim Jati Sangh

[183]Mukherjea, Ch. (1962) The Santals. Revised edition. Calcutta: A. Mukherjee. Orig.:1943

[184]It was noted that the grandfather, brother-in-law, or father's sister's husband explain the mysteries of sex to children of four to five years of age with occasional demonstration of process how to indulge in coitus (p396). Later it may take include more personal tutoring.

[185] Archer, W. G. (1974) The Hill of Flutes: Life, Love, and Poetry in Tribal India: A Portrait of the Santals. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press

[186] "It is from this time [5 to 6] that boys and girls begin to know each other. During the leisured grazing of the cattle, they often meet and play games and in the early evening come together in the village street and sometimes play till supper. Most of these games are jolly romps but some provide opportunities for gentle fumbling embraces. All of them accustom the children to each other's ways. They scramble together and from their very early years handle each other with natural familiarity. Through this play the children establish the easy joking friendships out of which their later romances mature (p35-6)". "It is from slightly older children that a Santal boy first learns the facts of life. "Boys learn how to go to girls" said Dhunu "by talking about it. They pick it up in the fields. Other boys do not show them how. They only tell them". Occasionally a boy learns it from an older woman. "A grandmother takes a grandson. She has not done it for a long time. She makes him do it to her". Sometimes a great aunt takes a young boy. Or his elder brother's wife shows him. "His brother does not know but it is only for a day and if he knew he would not mind. Girls on the other hand do not usually learn from girls. "It is the boys who teach them" " (p55-6).

[187]Archer W. G. (1984) Tribal law and Justice: A Report on the Santal. New Delhi: Concept

[188]Verma, K. K. (1970) Socio-Cultural Dimensions of Fertility: A Case Study of the Santal, J Soc Res 13,2:70-81

[189] This is suggested by Nakane, Ch. (1967) Garo and Khasi: A Comparative Study in Matrilineal Systems. Paris: Mouton, p47-8: "When the head of a nok dies before the nokna marries the nokrom , the nokrom will marry both mother and daughter at the same time: the former is recognized as jikmamong (principal or first wife), and the latter jikgite (secondary wife). In such a case, the widow is usually comparatively young and her daughter still a child. Actual sexual relations with the latter will take place only when she attains puberty".

[190] Dalton, E. T. (1872) Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal. Calcutta; Ronhaar, J. H. (1931) Woman in Primitive Motherright Societies. Groningen [Holland]: Wolters / London: D. Nutt, p333

[191] Sinha, T. (1966) The Psyche of the Garos. Calcutta: Anthropological Survey of India, Govt. of India

[192]Schachter and Cotte (1951) also conclude that it is the ambiance psycho-mésologique [psychosocial environment] that favours imitation of animal copulation.

[193]This was, as the authors point out, contested by Sinha (1966:p42), op.cit.

[194] Goswami, M. C. & Majumdar, D. N. (1968) A Study of Social Attitudes Among the Garo, Man in India 48, 1:53-70

[195] Burling, R. (1963) Rengsanggri: Family and Kinship in a Garo Village. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press

[196] E.g., Brongersma, E. (1963) De les van de Muria, Te Elfder Ure [Dutch]10,10:308-12; DeMause (1991), op.cit.; Müller, K. E. & Treml, A. K. (Eds., 2002) Wie Man zum Wilden Wird. Berlin: D. Reimer, p206-18; Valsiner, J. (2000) Culture and Human Development: An Introduction. London [etc.]: Sage, p285; Currier, R. L. (1981) Juvenile sexuality in a global perspective, in Constantine, L. L. & Martinson, F. M. (Eds.) Children and Sex: New Findings, New Perspectives. Boston: Little, Brown, p9-19, esp. p9-12; Symons, D. (1979) The Evolution of Human Sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press, p114-6

[197]Elwin, V. (1947) The Muria and their Ghotul. Bombay (etc.): Oxford University Press; Elwin, V. (1968) The Kingdom of the Young. Bombay/London: Oxford University Press. For a discussion on Elwin as a sexologist, see his biography by Guha, R. (1999) Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India. New Dehli: University of Chicago Press

[198] Gell, S. M. S. (1992) The Ghotul in Muria Society. Philadelphia: Harwood Academic Publishers. Based on a 1984 PhD thesis, Australian National University, Canberra. Cf. Gell, S. M. S. (1996) The Ghotul in Muria Society., J Anthropol Soc Oxford 27,2:178-80

[199] However, see Singh, B. G. & Verma, O. P. (1990) Cultural differences in locus of control beliefs in two Indian societies, J Social Psychol 130,6:725-9

[200] Elwin, V. (1964) The Tribal World of Verrier Elwin: An Autobiography. Oxford: Oxford University Press

[201] Elwin, V. (1939) The Baiga. London: John Murray. Critical passage quoted by Stephens (1963:p377-8). See also Whiting, J. & Child, I. (1953) Child Training and Personality: A Cross-Cultural Study. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, p81. Also Róheim, G. (1946) The oedipus complex and infantile sexuality, Psychoanal Quart 15:503-8

[202] Fuchs, S. (1950) The Children of Hari: A Study of the Nimar Bahalis in the Central Provinces of India. Vienna: Herold

[203]"Thus, "they play "father and mother", imitating even the sexual actions of their parents", or birth, weddings, parental quarrels, and work (p122).

[204] Fuchs, S. (1939) Birth and Childhood among the Balahis, Anthropol Quart 12,3:71-84

[205] Money, J., Swayam Prakasam, K. & Joshi, V. N. (1991) Transcultural Development Sexology: Genital Greeting Versus Child Molestation, Iss Child Abuse Accus 4,3. Available at

[206] Gorer, G. (1967) Himalayan Village. New York: Basic Books

[207] See also Ford, C. S. & Beach, F. A. (1951) Patterns of Sexual Behavior. New York: Harper & Row, p191: "The Lepcha of believe that girls with not mature without benefit of sexual intercourse. Early sex play among boys and girls characteristically involves many forms of mutual masturbation and usually ends in attempted copulation. By the time they are eleven or twelve years old, most girls regularly engage in full intercourse. Older men occasionally copulate with girls as young as eight years of age. Instead of being regarded as a criminal offense, such behavior is considered amusing by the Lepcha".

[208] Ray, P. C. (1965) The Lodha and their Spirit-Possessed Men. Calcutta. As cited by Duerr, H. P. (1988) Nacktheit und Scham. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp. Vol. 1 of Der Mythos vom Zivilizationprocess. 2nd ed., p201/416n25

[209]Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. (1922) The Andaman Islanders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1964 Free Press reprint

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[211] Also quoted in Crul, Th. W. (1942) Het Huwelijk bij de "Ethnologische Oervolken". Dissertation. Leiden [Holland]: A. W. Sijthoff, p30

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[216] The moustache later lost its symbolof masculinity in more urban regions.

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[237] Müller-Stellrecht, I. (1979) Materialien zur Ethnographie von Dardistan (Pakistan). Vol. I. Austria: Graz, p159

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[245] Op.cit.

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