This presentation will look at the histories and contemporary contexts of child marriage in India and China. While both countries have comparable histories of social reform in the 19th century, their 20th century trajectories have been markedly different. This has had consequences for contemporary marriage and family practices. China has become most strongly associated with the skewed sex ratio, "too many men and too few women". In India, on the other hand, while certain regions are associated with a shortage of women, it is the practice of child marriage that in the twenty-first century has been at the hub of national and international agendas. This presentation does two things: It asks that we revisit "child marriage" in India and give it a more appropriate description in the form of adolescent or early marriage, whether "arranged" or "self-chosen". Secondly, it takes note of the under-reported media coverage of underage/teenage marriages in certain provinces in China, thus also looking to more productive comparative frames for thinking about marriage in both contexts at the present time.
About the Speaker
Mary E. John was formerly Professor at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi. She was Director of the Centre from 2006-2012 and before that the Deputy Director of the Women’s Studies Programme at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi from 2001-2006. Major publications include Discrepant Dislocations: Feminism, Theory and Postcolonial Histories (reprinted 2021), A Question of Silence? The Sexual Economies of Modern India (reprinted 2021) and Women’s Studies in India: A Reader (2008). The co-edited volume Women in the Worlds of Labour: Interdisciplinary and Intersectional Perspectives and the monograph Child Marriage in an International Frame: A Feminist Review from India were published in 2021. She was the co-chair of a Task Force set up by the University Grants Commission to look into sexual harassment on Indian campuses and brought out the report “Saksham: Measures for Ensuring Safety of Women and Programmes for Gender Sensitization on Campuses” (2013). Her areas of interest span the field of women’s studies and feminism within the social sciences, with particular expertise in studies pertaining to marriage and family, education, and labour, as well as a more philosophical interest in the concepts and frameworks of feminist theoretical analysis.
About the Chair
Govind Kelkar is a feminist scholar, with a PhD in the political economy of China. She is a Visiting Professor, Council for Social Development and Institute for Human Development, India. She is the Executive Director, GenDev Centre for Research and Innovation, India, and was a Senior Adviser, Landesa, Seattle, USA (May 2013-March 2020). In concurrent assignments, Kelkar was the International Research Coordinator of ENERGIA International, The Netherlands and Research Lead on Gender and Energy at Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai. She is a Distinguished Adjunct Faculty of Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand. Kelkar has the position of Honorary Professor in Institute of Ethnology, Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, China, and Adjunct Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi. She has authored 16 books and numerous scholarly publications. Her recent book is Witch Hunts: Culture, Patriarchy and Structural Transformation (co-authored), Cambridge University Press, 2020.
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