India: Mulakaram or the breast tax

by Afrikaleaks La Rédaction
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mulakaram femmes hindoues

Mulakaram was a tax imposed on lower caste (Shudra) and “untouchable” (Dalit) Hindu women by the kingdom of Tranvancore (in the current state of Kerala in India) if they wanted to cover their breasts in public.

Mulakaram cruel tax


The mulakaram tax is a doubly cruel tax, because not only was it a tax that was considered high, but it also violated personal and intimate dignity: female nudity.

The lower caste and untouchable women had to pay the government a tax on their breasts as soon as they began to develop. In other words, this tax could fall on them from the age of 12 or 13 years old…

Travancore tax collectors visited every house in every village to collect the breast tax from all lower-caste women past the age of puberty.

And the size of the tax was assessed by the tax collectors based on the size of their breasts.

Painting that criticizes the Mulakaram tax
Painting that criticizes the Mulakaram tax

Many historians have documented that the discovery of the breasts was one of the many symbols of veneration… (symbol as a universal nurturer? ), as evidenced by many statues of women where this part of the body was widely discovered :

But in this context, they were revered as a symbolic sign of homage from the lower castes to the upper castes in the state of Travancore.

Mulakaram the price of blood


Protests did not take long to come. A certain woman of humble condition, called “Nangeli”, made a gesture of protest that cost her her life: she cut off both breasts and handed them over to the village tax officer.

Drained of her blood, she died:

Her husband, Chirukandan, having been unable to bear the loss of his wife, threw himself into the funeral fire that consumed Nangeli.

Waves of protest followed one another.

In honor of this brave woman, the place where she lived was renamed “Mulachiparambu” (the place of the woman with breasts).

This law ended in the 20th century (1924) during the era of the British Empire.

Source : Mulakaram Woman Empowerment and The Rape Culture in India

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