Shikha Dalmia: India Needs to Get Over Its Prudish Sexual Attitudes


Twice a year, in spring and fall, India's Hindus celebrate Navratri, a nine-day festival during which they pray each day to a different female deity. Navratri 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. But as Shikha Dalmia argues, it is precisely the stubborn hold of this prudish culture that has made many Indian men so callow.