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Faculty Seminar | “When will the dawn of divorce arrive?”: An Itinerary of Pre-Legal Ideas about Divorce in Stree Magazine, 1930-1955″


Conference Hall, Ground Floor, Training Centre, NLSIU


Wednesday, March 15, 2023, 4:00 pm

This week’s faculty seminar will feature a talk by Dr. Ashwini Tambe on the topic “When will the dawn of divorce arrive?”: An Itinerary of Pre-Legal Ideas about Divorce in Stree Magazine, 1930-1955″. NLS faculty member Prof. (Dr.) Sarasu will be the discussant.

About the speaker:

Dr. Ashwini Tambe is the Director of WGSS (Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Programme) and Professor of History and WGSS at George Washington University. Dr. Tambe is a scholar of transnational South Asian history who focuses on the relationship between law, gender and sexuality. She is also the Editorial Director of Feminist Studies, the oldest journal of interdisciplinary feminist scholarship in the United States. Over the past two decades, she has written about how South Asian societies regulate sexual practices. Her 2009 book Codes of Misconduct: Regulating Prostitution in Late Colonial Bombay (the University of Minnesota Press) traces how law-making and law-enforcement practices shaped the rise of the city’s red light district. Her 2019 book Defining Girlhood in India: A Transnational Approach to Sexual Maturity Laws (University of Illinois Press) explores how the expectation of sexual innocence is distributed in uneven ways for girls across class and caste groups. Both books examine the direction and flow of transnational influences. Her new book Transnational Feminist Itineraries (Duke University Press 2021, co-edited with Millie Thayer) features essays by leading gender studies scholars confronting authoritarianism and religious and economic fundamentalism.


In this paper, it is  described how a Marathi monthly magazine for women, Stree, prepared the ground for the social acceptance of divorce before it was legally available. The magazine’s contents in its first two decades of publication gave unusual attention to the plight of women who sought to free themselves from difficult marriages, at a time when divorce was inaccessible for Hindu women in much of the region. Opinion articles and readers’ letters to the editor demonstrate a range of rhetorical strategies to positively depict divorce in a context where it was vilified as a culturally alien practice. In effect, this paper explains how the magazine sought to indigenize divorce among Marathi readers. In focusing on a community that produced a significant number of reformists and legislators who helped formalize Hindu women’s legal right to divorce at a national level, this study of Marathi readers, legal advisors, and commentators traces an itinerary of reformist ideas about divorce before they gained national legislative success.