Shikha Dalmia in The Wall Street Journal On Why India Needs To Jettison Its Prudery


Twice a year, in spring and fall, India's Hindus celebrate Navrati, a nine-day festival during which they pray each day to a different female deity. Navrati culminates in "kanya puja," or a day of maiden worshiping: Every household invites over the young girls of the neighborhood and, led by the father or patriarch, bows before them, washes their feet, prays to them, offers them a specially prepared feast of vegetarian delicacies and showers them with gifts and money.

Such veneration of women may surprise foreign observers of India, considering the recent epidemic of rapes there and publicity about the everyday harassment that Indian women face—lewd gestures, catcalls, groping and worse. Some have blamed modernity, suggesting that India needs to return to its past. But when it comes to "eve teasing" (as this practice is euphemistically called), I would argue the opposite: It is precisely the stubborn hold of India's prudish culture that has made many Indian men so callow.

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