Child Marriage in an International Frame : A Feminist Review from India book cover
1st Edition

Child Marriage in an International Frame
A Feminist Review from India

ISBN 9780367643355
Published April 13, 2021 by Routledge India
226 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations

SAVE $48.00
was $160.00
USD $112.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

Child marriage has been given a pre-eminent place in agendas addressing “harmful practices” as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. India leads the world in the number of women who marry below the age of 18 and is therefore of unique interest to international and national forums.

Refusing simplistic labels like “harmful practice”, this book explores the complex history of child marriage as a social and feminist issue in India across different domains. It critically reviews a wide range of historical, demographic, and legal scholarship on the subject. Major concepts relevant to child marriage – such as childhood, adolescence, the girl, and marriage − are analysed in a comparative framework that uncovers the unnoticed presence of the practice in the USA and China. The volume questions existing approaches, analyses the latest data sources, and develops a new concept of compulsory marriage. 

A definitive study of child marriage in India in a changing global context, this book will interest scholars and students in the fields of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, childhood studies, development studies and the social sciences. It will also be of great appeal to all those working with civil society organisations, NGOs, states and international agencies in India, and globally.

Table of Contents

Introduction. 1. Historical Soundings: India 1800–2000 2. Elements of the International Story and the Question of Concepts 3. Child Marriage in the New Millennium: Law, Policy and the Work of Demography 4. Reintegrating the ‘Other’: Age, Education, Work under Compulsory Marriage. Afterword. Appendix

View More



Mary E. John is Professor at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi, India.  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, India from 2001-2006.  Recent publications include Discrepant Dislocations: Feminism, Theory and Postcolonial Histories (New edition, 2021); A Question of Silence? The Sexual Economies of Modern India (co-edited 1998);  Women’s Studies in India: A Reader (2008) and the co-edited volume Women in the Worlds of Labour: Interdisciplinary and Intersectional Perspectives (in press).


“With her characteristic brilliance and perspicacity, Mary E. John makes a signal contribution to feminist scholarship in this book. Her genealogy of child marriage draws upon historical, comparative, and intersecting analytical frameworks. This deep and nuanced contextualization compels us to consider afresh what we had long assumed we knew about a familiar subject. Her argument about "compulsory marriage," which she introduces to reframe the discussion of child marriage, offers an important conceptual advance that will likely become a valuable new resource in the feminist toolkit. This is one of the most original and exciting feminist interventions to come along in a while.” — Mrinalini Sinha, Alice Freeman Palmer Professor of History, University of Michigan, USA

This elegantly incisive book by Mary E. John, one of India’s leading feminist scholars, challenges us to interrogate some of the myths of reason and progress that we complacently live by. Her object of study is public discourse and social policy on the issue of child marriage, a ‘social problem’ which, for close on two centuries, has been an object of attention by Indian social reformers, women’s movement activists, and latterly, in a global context, by international development agencies.  In a tour de force,  John decodes the intricacies of various data sets and the assumptions that drive them, to suggest that  it is not child-marriage that is the problem for Indian women, but rather the ‘compulsory’ nature of marriage itself which must be the frame of reference for genuine change.” — Patricia Uberoi, Retired Professor, Institute of Economic Growth & Chairperson, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi, India