Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 March 2012
While the second RS Act allowed for girls to be included in the category of the ‘juvenile offender’, neither of the RS Acts provided for the incarceration of female children in reformatories. The 1897 legislation might be seen as a tentative half-measure, but the extension of the infrastructure of juvenile punishment to girls was explicitly discouraged by both laws, and it was not until the 1920s that systematic efforts were made to import native girls into the penal archipelago. Nevertheless, like the child of the Criminal Tribe, the girl child was a persistent shadow within the reformatory, rendered marginal but all the more interesting by the ideological and political dimensions of her exclusion. There was, in fact, a substantial body of opinion in colonial child-correction circles that held female children to be especially delinquent and endangered in the native context. That girls were not ‘reformed’ on a larger scale reflects the peculiar place of females and families in an evolving vision of Indian society. The delinquency of native girls was perceived by experts as too great a problem for the reformatory to manage. Furthermore, administrators overwhelmingly believed that locking up girls would destabilize the native family, and thus create more disorder than order. In the process, they aligned themselves with Indian men who, in Partha Chatterjee's well-known phrase, sought to implement a ‘nationalist resolution’ of the problem of women and the colonial state.