“The Youth in India: Situation and Needs” study interviewed 58,728 youth ages 15 to 29 in rural and urban areas in various regions (2006 to 2008).[i] It indicated the lack of freedom and education available to girls and young women. Respondents’ most pressing problems were unemployment, poverty, lack of infrastructure (the top problem for women) and educational opportunities. Almost one-third didn’t have electricity in their homes and two-thirds didn’t have a toilet, but most had access to TV (89% of men and 76% of women)—more so in southern states. Over one-third had never been to school, 47% of females compared to 26% of males. Married girls in rural areas were least likely to be educated: Half of the girls in the study were married before age 18—one-quarter didn’t have a say in their parents’ choice of spouse. The main reason for not going to schools was their family couldn’t afford it or the youths’ labor was needed at home. Also one-quarter of the females weren’t allowed to go out of the home by themselves, with girls in the south having more freedom. About one-third of both sexes weren’t interested in going to school and only about 10% were members of groups. Only 14% of males and 7% of females had more than 12 years of education.
The northern states had more teen marriages without input from the young people while the south had more secular attitudes. Despite laws against dowry payments, about thee-quarters of the marriages involved a dowry in both urban and rural areas. More than half of young women said they had less freedom to go out than their male relatives and had more housework. Only 27% of women said they could make independent decisions on choices such as friends or spending money, compared to 56% of men. Only 9% of women and 19% of men had a pre-martial romance. One-quarter of the sample had seen their father beat their mother, more so in the south, and about half thought it was sometimes justified. Women were more likely than men to have egalitarian attitudes, but not in this matter of wife beating. Both sexes rarely discussed sensitive topics such as relationships and sex with their parents, nor did they learn about sexual health in school, talking instead with their friends. This resulted in ignorance about pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases. Most of the few unmarried youth who were sexually active (4% of women and 15% of men) didn’t use birth control. Childbirth was expected to follow as soon as possible after marriage.
[i] “Youth in India,” Population Council,