Criminal Tribes Act

Legislation in British India

The Criminal Tribes Act was one of the many laws passed on the 12th of October in 1871 by the British colonial government that applied to Indians based on their religion and caste identification. The Criminal Tribes Act and its provisions used the term Tribes, which included castes within their scope. This terminology was preferred for various reasons, including Muslim sensitivities that considered castes by definition Hindu, and preferred Tribes as a more generic term that included Muslims. The origins behind the creation of the act concerned Revolt of 1857 where many tribal chiefs as Dhan Singh Gurjar were labelled traitors and considered rebellious. Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 was amended, on the 28th of January in 1897; with the subtitle "An Act for the Registration of Criminal Tribes and Eunuchs", ordering that "criminal" eunuchs "dressed or ornamented like a woman in a public street… be arrested without warrant" and imprisoned.[1][2][3][4]

The Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, expanded in scope through the 1920s, targeted numerous castes in colonial India. According to Simon Cole, a professor of Criminology, Law & Society, the law declared everyone belonging to certain castes to be born with criminal tendencies. They criminalized entire communities by categorizing them as habitual criminals. Because of this label, restriction on their movements was also imposed.

Adult male members of such groups were forced to report weekly to the local police.


  1. "Transindia: Who Are the Hijras?". Planet Transgender. 31 January 2015. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  2. Scott Long (28 November 2014). "Buggery and beggary, and Ferguson". a paper bird. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  3. Narrain, Siddarth (14 October 2003). "Being A Eunuch In India". Countercurrents. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  4. Khaleeli, Homa (2014-04-16). "Hijra: India's third gender claims its place in law". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-03-14.