Close reading of a 1934 case in which a doctor working for Zanzibar’s Medical Services Department stood accused of having “immoral intent” to seduce a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl illuminates the reasons for and effects of the sexualization of Zanzibari schoolgirls in colonial discourse. This article traces the shift in colonial objectives to protect unmarried adolescent girls—first from local practices, such as child marriage and later from girls’ own curiosities about “modern” fashion, dancing, and dating. In this construct, schoolgirls became mature and flirtatious sexual creatures who enticed adult men already weakened by the tropical environment of the East African islands. Both actors—the schoolgirl and the colonial official—toyed with the secret of sex that lay at the heart of Islamic female seclusion, symbolized by the veil. In this case and others involving sexual and sexualized schoolgirls, her ignorance about sex was as vital as her virginity.


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pp. 42-60
Launched on MUSE
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