Monthly Archives: November 2014

Beliefs Influence Gene Expression

Scientists discovered which genes express is influenced by our health habits such as exposure to toxins like cigarettes. Do an Internet search for epigenetics and read Brue Lipton’s The Biology of Belief.” He points to the importance of unconscious beliefs and suggests how to change them: See

online magazine written by young adults


{Young}ist was born in response to the scapegoating of our generation in mainstream, corporate media narratives. As we are burdened with the economic crisis, a broken immigration system, and the rampant violence on young Black, Brown, queer, and transgender youth across the globe – we pursue storytelling not only as a vehicle to spread news, but also as a vital organizing tool to combating oppression. We see youth-led publishing and cross-pollination of ideas and strategies as a political necessity in this digital age.


  • Incarceration
  • Capitalism (think: labor, workers, gentrification, etc)
  • Immigration
  • Health (Gender Incarceration
  • Capitalism (think: labor, workers, gentrification, etc)
  • Immigration
  • Health (think: mental health, sex, trauma, self-care, etc)
  • Queerness
  • Gender
  • Organizing (think: direct action, online campaigns, social movements, etc)
  • Racial justice
  • Culture (think: arts, pop culture, etc)

Sexism in Turkey in 2014

Prime Minister Erdoğan told mothers to come and take their children home from Turkey’s Gezi Park, so some mothers formed a “chain of mothers” around young demonstrators to protect them from police. Speaking to a November 2014 conference on women and justice, Erdoğan said men and women’s nature are different and women’s role is to bear children so they can’t be put in “equal positions.”[i] He praised his mother who would “glance coyly and cry sometimes.” This speech of course was met with outrage by working women.

[i] Peter Scheer, “Turkey’s President Says Women Should Stick to Making Babies,” TruthDig, November 27, 2014.

Add to individual steps to reduce climate change

Individual Steps to Protect the Environment

Calculate your carbon footprint

White roofs

LED lights


Compost food, give to chickens

Plant a garden . No yard? Use pots on balcony, find community garden

Minimize car and plane use

Live near work

Don’t eat meat

Use olivine ground cover (it absorbs carbon dioxide)

Don’t run water if you’re not using it

Harry Potter and Hunger Games fans fight inequality

The 1% concept permeated popular culture, as when the director and co-writer of a popular 2012 film, The Hunger Games, said of his film, “It’s not hard to see the 1 percent and the 99 percent in there. It’s not hard to see the excesses of wealth and the subjugation of the districts; while people are starving, wealthy capital dwellers induce vomiting so they can eat more delicious food. Hunger Games fans relaunched the “Odds in Our Favor” campaign against inequality first launched by the Harry Potter Alliance in 2013, asking fans to share their experiences on #MyHungerGames, post a photo making Katniss’ three-fingered salute and featuring community activists on #WeAreTheDistricts tumblr.[i] In Bangkok, Thai protesters against the military coup used the three-fingered salute that young rebels used to signal dissent in The Hunger Games. The military banned its use in political gatherings and pressured a cinema chain to cancel showing the film after anti-coup students planned to attend the opening of the third film in Hunger Games series in 2014.


The One Party Planet summary of neoliberal domination and opposition

An activist organization called The Rules wrote The One Party Planet pamphlet in 2014 that outlines the impact of neoliberal capitalist elites, the Neoliberal Party governing the world.[i] The richest 1% surpass elected governments in their control. Most of the largest economic entities are corporations rather than nations (1101 out of 1752 in 2011) that manipulate not paying taxes and have the rights of persons in the US thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. In an unequal world, 60% of the population lives on less than $5 a day (according to the World Bank). The richest 85 people own as much as the bottom 3.5 billion people, although it’s clear that “an unequal society is an unhealthy society.” Private banks create most of the money, rather than governments. Corporations ignore climate change and continue to increase the amount of carbon dioxide since the oil industry comprises seven of the 10 biggest global corporations.

The basic neoliberal doctrine, applied under Thatcher and Reagan, is that material growth is good and necessary, as measured in the Gross Domestic Product. The large corporations have interlocking directorates run mainly by white and Asian men who are consolidating their power with trade deals that limit government power over corporations: The North American Free Trade Agreement, Trans Pacific Partnership, Trans-Atlantic Trade and Development Partnership, the UN’s psot-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa. The elite meet face-to-face at the annual World Economic Forum in Devos, Switzerland and developed the Global Redesign Initiative affirming that nations are not the “dominant actors on the world stage.”

The Rules authors call for popular global uprisings like Gezi Park, Tahrir Square and Occupy Wall Street to multiply. In addition to models mentioned in this book, they mention models new to me, the Ekta Parishads, the Project for the Advancement of our Common Humanity, the Coalition the Immokalee Workers in Florida, Kenyans for Tax Justice in Nairobi. They point to leaders such as Uruguay’s President Jose jujica who rejects neoliberal polices and reduced poverty, promoting cooperatives. They believe that “something like a cohesive movement is taking place.” Opposing neoliberalism is the growing field of steady state or no growth economics as taught by the New Economics Foundation. The Rules point to a new paradigm of systems theory to understand how to change the system, explained in The Systems View of Life by Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi (2014), and recommend other informative books and organizations in their pamphlet.


Effective Way to Remove Emotional Blocks


Emotional Freedom Technique works with the unconscious mind and the energy system, including acupressure points and meridians and brain balance. Check out the archive of 3,000 case studies and read the manual. I find it very useful in my coaching sessions.

Narcissistic Young Women Portrayed in US Media

An HBO series about four young women several years out of college, inspired by Sex in the City (1998 to 2004), Girls (began in 2012) strengthens the narcissistic side of the debate, a devolution away from the confidence and humor of the older friends show. (Another spin off of Sex in the City by the same writer was a prequel launched in 2012 called The Carrie Diaries about the fashionable star as a high school student in the early 1980s.) The creator and writer of Girls and lead actor, Lena Dunham, stated in an NPR radio interview, “each character is a piece of me or someone close to me.”[i] In her book of essays published when she was 28 (similar to her character Hannah’s proposed book), of Girl (2014) Dunham she refers to herself as, “I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the frontlines of that struggle.” She concludes with advice lacking in profoundity, “don’t put yourself in situations you’d like to run away from.” Feminist blogs such as Jezebel “staffed largely by people Dunham’s age, can’t kick her enough. The biggest complaint about her is that she represents all that is wrong with an over-privileged, nepotistic, Caucasian-focused slice of America,” writes Hadley Freeman in The Guardian who calls the book “clit lit.”[ii] TIME Magazine selected her as one of the 100 most influential people of 2014.

Dunham described Hannah as a brat who usually makes the wrong decisions, as when she bombs a job interview by making a joke that the rape rate went up after the interviewer entered his university and drinks opium tea and then passes out while trying to convince her parents to continue supporting her two years after graduation. The narcissistic wrong decisions continue in Season 3 when Hannah gets fired from a writing job at GQ magazine and springs news on Adam just before his Broadway debut as an actor that she may leave NYC, Shoshanna fails a college class so she can’t graduate, Marnie has sex with Shoshanna’s ex-boyfriend (who Shoshanna wants back) and flirts with a musician who is in a committed relationship. Hannah says the last four years of her life were “a total wash.” More examples of self-absorbed and foolish characters from Girls are on the book website.[iii]

A 2014 film Laggies features another confused and narcissistic 28-year old. Megan, played by Keira Knightley, buys alcohol for teens, pals around with 16-year-old Annika and lies to her father, goes to her high school prom, gets drunk with her father and has sex with him while engaged to her high school boyfriend. Although she has a therapist graduate degree, she didn’t relate to her clients during training, and is working part-time for her father waving a sign and dancing in front of his office. In the end she breaksup with her fiancé in the airport on the way to elope in Los Vegas because he sent their photo to their group of friends who she decides to break away from. She then brings liquor to Annika’s father and is embraced by him and the movie ends.

Another HBO series that began in 2014 features equally self-involved men about the same age as Girls. Three techie geeks live in Silicon Valley in the “Hacker Hostel” home of a more experienced app creator, Erlich, who gets 10% of what his tenants sell. Jared, another partner in their startup Pied Piper lives elsewhere. Erlich is arrogant and insulting. The guys are socially awkward, struggle with masculinity, amazed if a dozen girls show up at a party and that they always end up together at one side of the room. Only one of them has a girlfriend. Richard programmed the algorithm that created Pied Piper; he has anxiety attacks and vomits. One woman is an assistant to her boss, but we don’t see other employed women. Youth is valued: the guys call in a high school boy to help them with their cloud technology. He scornfully asks how old Richard is, as if 25 if over the hill. The teen relies on the ADHD drug Adderall to stay alert, and says half the kids in Palo Alto are similar. To keep him going, Erlich threatens to kill a boy’s mother unless he gets six pills and he complies. Another value is “disruption,” the theme of a conference on the show. Shows are available online.[iv]


[ii] Hadley Freeman, “Not That Kind of Girl Review—Lena Dunham Exposes All, Again,” The Guardian, September 30, 2014.



Quick healthy recipes cookbook: Fundraiser for Literacy Program in Pakistan

I put together my friends’ favorite quick healthy recipes as a fundraiser for a literacy program in Pakistan, second only to Yemen illiteracy rates. College students there go to villages and teach basic skills. See photos of the students I can mail the books to you or they’re available as ebooks online at sites like Amazon. They’re $12. All profits go to the program. If you have favorite recipes to add, let me know gkimball at Please forward to your network.


Table of Contents



Appetizers                                                                  page 3


Salads                                                                         page 10


Veggies                                                                       page 20


Soups                                                                          page 24


Veggie Main Dishes                                                 page 28


Meat Main Dishes                                                     page 44


Fish Main Dishes                                                       page 50


Bread                                                                           page 54


Desserts                                                                     page 58


Drinks                                                                          page 68


Other Quick Healthy Recipe Sources                  page 72


Health Tips                                                                 page 73


Index                                                                            page 94


Indian feminism


Chapter 10 Feminism in India, the Emerging Patriarchal Superpower

Draft to critique 


More photos of India[1]


I want to be magistrate in my town so I can do good. ?, 10, f


My purpose is to mark my name in the world. Neelima, 14, f


The older generation thought boys and girls weren’t equal, but boys and girls are equal. Before girls couldn’t go outside their homes, now they can go wherever they want. Shaveta, 15, f


I want to eradicate the evils mainly faced by girls and solve the problems of girls. Sunitha, 16, f


I think that I have the talent to achieve all theses things: I ’m here on earth to vanquish corruption, help people and make myself an honest memorable person in the world. Ritu, 17, f


All young [Indian] people like to be activists.

Ruchira Gupta, co-founder of Apne Aap Women Worldwide


Contents: Youth Issues, The Gap Between the Rich and the Poor, Hybrid Youth Culture and Attitudes, Youth Activism in Politics, Traditional Sexism,




Youth Issues

Asia has most of the world’s population (six out of 10 of the most populated countries)[2] and its growing economies will shape the future of the planet. What young people think there matters. India will be the youngest nation in the world by 2020, with over half of the population under age 25 (315 million people). Two countries exist in one, the growing urban middle class and the uneducated poor who live in slums or village huts. Youth are increasingly moving to cities, expected to double in population over the next 25 years. India is rapidly urbanizing, which will result in the biggest rural to urban migration in history, even larger than China. Almost a third of India’s 480 million jobs are held by women and urban women’s incomes doubled over the past decade, giving them more influence in their families.[3] Girls in all classes face traditional sexism and a separation of the sexes, but are influenced by Western media to want to be more independent. Specific examples of recent sexism were collected by Youth Kiwaaz.[4]

“Born frees” who grew up under the liberalization of the Indian economy by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and its 20 years of growth were optimistic. That is, until recession hit in 2011 with youth unemployment and frequent news of government corruption scandals. Hundreds of thousands of children work as servants, doing construction and other labor. A Kolkata commentator complained, “The post liberalization generation, the 22-year-old, thinks there is only one God, that is GDP.”[5] They helped elect pro-business Narendra Modi prime minister in 2014, based on his business development record in Gujarat because youth want jobs. Modi described himself as a “small person,” elected by the weak, rural, untouchables, and the poor to do big things, who “By thinking small for small people I am trying to make them grow.”[6]

University student, blogger[7], and novelist Aishwarya, 22, read this chapter and corrected the first paragraph:


For me, the Western media wasn’t something that made me observe the stupidity going on around me. When feminism started in Europe, it must have been a result of observation. Women in villages in India, definitely have no access to anything western, not even western media. So, I think that can be only true for a tiny section. One can look at an irony that India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, even Bangladesh and Pakistan have had female heads, but US or France are yet to have female Presidents.      
Aishwarya observed that current feminism focuses on “demand primarily for curbing of rapes, and stopping female fetus abortion and girl education.” She explained, “Curbing of crimes against women is a challenge for a democratic government here. Only a communist government like that of China’s could do wonders.” However, like many young women who value equality, she doesn’t like the f word, “because that very word gives the feeling that women are weak and need empowerment to come up to some level. I do feel males are often at disadvantage many a times. Both should have equal rights, its a matter of common sense and basic rationality.”

Since over half the population is under age 25, youth are central to their country. Indian youth are spending more time in a dependent role as they delay marriage. A phenomenon, well known in Japan and China, and now in India, is what one author called “child-crafting,” where parents focus on producing educated children who can compete on the global market, perhaps finding a well-paying job abroad.[8]

Youth market analyst Kaustav SenGupta divides the close to 250 million youth ages 15 to 25 in three categories: The bharativas, around 67%, live in rural areas with traditional values, influenced by Bollywood family emphasis. The Indians are almost a third, aware of global trends but followers of traditional family values. The affluent Inglodians are only 1.5%, but have a 70% growth rate. They believe in the global village without differences between east and west, are connected to the Internet and influenced by western culture but “Indian at heart.”[9] More on youth culture in the previous endnote.

Because India is a BRIC nation, one of the rising economic superpowers, we need to understand if it will continue the conservative patriarchy practiced by the 70% who live in villages and urban patriarchs. Will India build on the dedication to equality of some of the educated elite who live in urban area, who are considered decadent and westernized by traditionalists? The author of India in Love (2014), Ira Trivedi discovered:


a growing tension between the old and the new, between parents and children, between eastern tradition and western culture. As social structures are loosening, and as sexuality enters the visual landscape at cyber speed, liberation (sexual and otherwise) is exhilarating, but it also creates new tension that a society might not be prepared to face.[10]


Historian Shri Ramachandra Guha points out that India is undergoing five simultaneous revolutions where the national, industrial, democratic, urban and social revolutions are occurring since liberation from England in 1947. In contrast, Western countries started the revolutions in the late 18th century. Three catastrophic issues facing India are population explosion, the AIDS epidemic (over 2.5 million people are HIV+) and female genocide—all are sex related. Yet sexuality is a taboo subject, despite the fact that India will overtake China as the most populous nation before 2030 and over half of Indians are under 22, childbearing age.

In a large 2013 poll of urban youth ages 18 to 24 in 16 cities, 53% thought India has an equal society, as stated in the constitution and in government five- year plans that named women as “partners in development.” The 1986 Mahila Samakhya plan was especially designed to empower women. Southern Indians were more likely to think their country is equal (67%). When NDTV gathered young people to talk about women’s issues in the studio as seen online, they agreed that on paper women have equal rights but in practice they deal with centuries of discrimination, viewing women’s inferior place as in the home and inferior. Young women talked about employers not wanting to hire mothers, the double job women do at work and home, and the constant harassment they experience on the street. In the large urban poll, 57% of the respondents and 51% of the women said females have equal opportunity at work. They thought a generational shift is occurring as large numbers of women enter in the workforce.

Safety is a constant problem for women; the poll reported 34% feel unsafe at home, 59% at colleges and work, and 71% in public places. All the females in the TV audience experienced street harassment and said passerbys didn’t help if an assault occurred. Nor do family members intervene. A young woman talked about her father beating her mother, but relatives told her to keep quiet to preserve family honor. In the poll, 63% said they didn’t think domestic violence was exaggerated. When asked what would be most helpful to women, the poll listed a change in men’s attitude, stricter policing, and stronger laws.

A novel called Miss New India portrays the changing roles of young women. Anjali Bose, 19, is a business college student in the state of Bihar in the North East. Her parents are typically obsessed with the search—including Internet sites–to find her a good husband from similar Kayastha caste and Bengali background, despite not having much of a dowry to offer a suitor. They’re traditionally lower middle-class, eating fish and rice with their fingers and the women taking a bath wearing a sari, the daughters sleeping next to their mother. Anjali wondered, “Marriage equated to servitude, like her mother’s and sister’s. But if not in marriage, how did a woman in Bangalore live?”[11] Her American English teacher urges her, as one of his best students with a special “spark,” to go to Bangalore in the south to find a job in a call center. He hopes she’ll avoid early marriage to someone her parents select and a repetition of her parents’ squabbling and unhappiness.

Suitors like to do home visits where they can assess “the mother’s modesty, the father’s authority, the spontaneous hospitality, the obsequiousness of the staff, the absence of ostentation.”[12] Anjali agrees to meet an attractive man and her family agrees she can spend six hours with him in his red rental car after finding him suitable. He rapes her in the car. That night, while her parents sleep, she escapes to Bangalore wearing jeans and T-shirt, suffering groping and fear while traveling alone. Her English teacher found a boarding house for her and lent her money to get established. She took a crash course on how to do service calls for Americans, learning about US TV shows, chain store names, and sport metaphors.

As an attractive woman, Anjali is befriended in Bangalore by a man she calls Mr. GG whose wife refused to leave the US. He comments about his wife, “I find American-raised Indian girls too independent. They lack true family feeling.”[13] Anjali agrees to have sex with him once, but doesn’t accept his offer to travel with him outside of India. She decided, “If I’m to give myself away, it might as well be to a well-established man who saved me and performed favors and kindnesses. A well-connected man who would owe me.” She gets caught in the midst of a terrorist plot, and Mr. GG rescues her. After being in jail, the police offer asks her why she didn’t let him know she had connections.

Her English teacher told her that historically India isn’t structured around networking and contacts, but around family and community, which falls apart in a big city like Bangalore with people from all over India. She makes her own network; her new connection with Mr. GG gets her a job as a telephone debt collector and she finds a wealthy family who takes her in like a daughter. Could she have made these connections without being an attractive young, tall, green-eyed woman? She tells her new friends they’re part of a social revolution and someone asks, “Are we riding a tiger, have we started something we can’t control?” Anjali realizes her parents’ generation’s fight was to establish an independent India, which was achieved, but “I’m terrified, tempted, and corrupted by the infusion of vast sums of new capital.”[14] Mr. GG writes in a newspaper column, “’The New Miss Indias will transform our country. Dynamo is inflamed by the new species of tiger-lamb.” It’s not clear how Anjali is a tiger, since she depends on men to rescue her, although she did have the courage to leave home after being raped.

Many young women aren’t able to use attractiveness to garner support. Suicide rates are higher among well-educated young people in more affluent areas. Suicide has replaced maternity health problems as the main cause of death of Indian women aged 15 to 49, a 126% increase from 1990 to 2010.[15] Over half (56%) of the suicides were between the ages of 15 and 29. A Lancet report suggested that some of the causes are pressure to marry, increasing violence against women, and economic problems. (Small farmers commit suicide at the rate of two every hour because they’re unable to make a living for their families.)

In his book of essays, Chetan Bhagat says youth issues are corruption, education (he mentions a decline in primary school enrollment and obsolete curriculum and a halt in building new universities), and secularism. He believes India has major problems and that they can be fixed, hopefully by youth because they have “sparks,” that fade as people age. His novel Five Point Someone by (2004) refers to mediocre students, three friends at ITT where 10-point “toppers” are admired. ITT is the best tech institute in India, almost guaranteeing a good job after graduation, where Bhagat was actually a student. The novel reveals class and differences between modern and traditional girls and was reported to be the best-selling English-language novel in India. Hari, the narrator, goes to visit his friend Alok’s home where he was surprised to see only a black and white TV with two channels, no couches in the living room, and no shades on the lamps. Hari believes two kinds of pretty girls exist in Delhi. The modern type wears jeans or skirts, has short hair, and wears tiny earrings. He says the traditional type wears the salwar kameez (tunic over pants), a bindi (colored dot on the forehead) and large earrings.[16]

Hari is mystified by his girlfriend Neha’s emotions. At 18, her father doesn’t permit her to talk with boys, so they meet secretly to go to an ice cream shop or see movies (Hari says Hindi movies all have the same plot, boy meets girl, boy is poor and honest, girl’s dad is rich and a crook). After dating for a year, being a good girl, she doesn’t even kiss Hari until her birthday. (A group of stories supposedly based on young women’s actual experiences defines the key to being a good Indian girl is virginity and overall lacks excitement, but some manage to have fun while keeping up the appearance of virtue.[17]) At the end of the novel, Hari gets a job in Mumbai and hopes Neha will find a job there in the fashion industry.

Rajni Jaimini, a high school teacher in Delhi, observes that sex roles are changing in her home. Although her architect husband doesn’t get home from work until around 9:30 PM, he gets the children ready for school in the morning, and her father-in-law greets them with a snack after he picks them up from school. Although her parents didn’t want her to date in college, some girls who came from outside of Delhi without parental supervision had sex with various boys. They tried to keep it a secret because men want to marry a virgin. What Jaimini appreciates about western values is more freedom for women, but she wants to preserve the extended family like hers with the grandparents providing childcare, love, and free place to live. She’s also happy with her arranged marriage, glad she didn’t have to play the dating game.

She reports harassing women, called Eve teasing, is still a problem on the streets and in public transport in the North. The boys are usually migrants from villages who are not used to seeing girls’ legs; they whistle and make comments as happens in the US too. Some universities try to diminish harassment by banning women from wearing jeans and short skirts. Jaimini reports government health clinics are widespread where women can pick up free condoms for their husbands or get other forms of birth control from a doctor like IUDs and pills. Women can choose to get sterilized during the hospital birth of their last child.

Principal (retired Colonel) Atamaran Sekar confirms that a social revolution is underway, “We are reasonably sure that about 80% of our urban school students have their first sexual experience before grade 10. This, in a country where virginity of the wife is sine qua non for most Indian husbands, is tectonic.”[18] The endnote refers to a source Sekar quoted.

Another major shift reported by Nisha Singhania, senior director of Grey Worldwide India, is that a decade ago most young women saw themselves as housewives.[19] Later, most said they wanted to be teachers or doctors: “If they had a profession at all, it had to be a noble cause,” Singhania says. “Now, it is about glamour, money, and fame,” similar to Russian cities. Nikita, 13, says, “I want to be known for what I do, so you just wait. You’ll hear of me someday, but until that day happens, keep peace.” In the past, “As a girl, you never spoke to your parents. They spoke to you.” But today 67% of these young urban women say they plan to take care of their parents into their old age. Female role models in Indian culture used to convey perfection, Singhania says. Now, 62% of girls say it’s all right if they have faults and for people to see them. Many plan to marry when they’re ready, not when their parents decide, and 65% believe dating is a necessary preliminary to marriage. “The relationship with the husband used to be one of awe,” Singhania says. “Now, women want a partner and a relationship of equals.”

A novel about young urban employed women, Almost Single by Advaita Kala, focuses on a group of friends who search for a handsome rich husband spurred on my their mothers, dating and sex—commenting on the size of men’s genitalia, consumption of alcohol and cigarettes, western music, and love of stiletto heels and other fashion accessories. Misha’s “one and only ambition is to net the perfect NRI—nonresident Indian.”[20] She uses a matrimonial site for Indians living in the US, Canada and Australia. Aisha, 29, is the narrator who despite being overweight and cheeky, wins the love of a NRI from California. She does have enough perspective to comment, “It strikes me that romantic love is at the best of times a luxury. While most people worry about where to sleep, a confused few agonize over who to sleep with.”

I talked with students in three secondary schools in North India (see photos). In the small town of Mandi, a Sikh-sponsored school, tuition is 550 rupees a month. Students in 9th and 10th grade classes said girls study better and boys play better. Girls care about poverty and unemployment, while the boys mentioned they would change corruption and reform education, which doesn’t exist in villages. Everyone I talked with, young and old, agreed youth are more technically knowledgeable than their parents.

In a government high school in Anandpur Sahib (see photos), free lunch is provided for grades 1-8. When a guest enters, the students stand and recite a greeting. To respond to a question they stand and speak in very quiet voices that don’t carry around the room, with the few girls on one side. The room was dark, only an old blackboard. High school costs 100 rupees a month plus textbook fees, but is free for low castes. They said what’s different about their generation is their fashion and music, and before girls were not supposed to go outside or wear jeans. Now women can form an NGO and teach illiterates. A boy said life is better now that they have technology and machines, so work is easier. Their parents were farmers and it took ages to reach others, while now they have Internet. Another boy said when their parents were young they lived in a joint family, now there are more nuclear families.

About arranged marriage, although they have the legal right to a love marriage, the vote was 45 to 16 that their parents will decide, but the young people can say no. When I asked if one generation was morally better, 21 said their generation is better with a show of hands, while six said their parent’s generation was superior. In the other class, 27 said their parents’ generation was better and 17 favored youth because they have more education. Their parents grew up close to nature and the land. Before food was organic, now there are more pesticides. See my photos of a government middle school for slum children in Delhi with limited electricity, holes in the roof, and discouraged teachers. Only about 10% of his students are motivated to learn, a teacher told me.

A stark contrast, I shared my PowerPoint about global youth with a government academy in Anandpur Sahib that gets funding from the military and charges 1 lakh (100,000 rupees) a month for boarding and 475 rupees for day school. The school has 575 students, only 30% female. School begins with a morning assembly with prayer, a positive thought for the day, and new vocabulary words. Students study 1½ hour after school with tutors, then eat dinner and study till 11 in the boarding school, similar to South Korean schools. Classrooms were well equipped with smart technology. The Sikh principal and director are former military officers. They check on everything, they said, unlike free government schools where some teachers pay to get a job. They only hire teachers who passed exams with merit. The principal and director supervise and evaluate teachers. The principal gets up at 4:30 to prepare for work.

Students said differences between generations are youth today have more information and access to technology. They know about global issues, care about poverty, live in smaller families, have more freedom and have access to education for girls. They agreed girls are better students but a boy said humorously it was because boys helped them and other boys applauded. I opened the discussion up for questions about what ever they wanted to ask. Girls’ questions to me included:

My cousins, who I live with, think they are always right.

Boys gang up on girls, only 3 girls in grade 10.

My mind is always thinking.

My father pushes me to do better.

Will our thinking change as we get older?

Principal Singh compared generations: “When I was in class 10 I decided what to do, but today youth don’t do goal setting because of the impact of the media. We used to enjoy playing games; they inspired us. Now helicopter parents send their children to after-school classes in math, science, judo, and English, with no time to indulge in games. They surf the net, and don’t respect teachers, and have a careless attitude about their things, he said, while pointing to a backpack left in the hallway.

Director Singh observed that in small families, parents are over-protective, causing kids to be dependent and materialistic. They have become so selfish and carefree, they don’t worry about the future. Youth want fast money. They use cars and think to hell with pollution with total lack of concern. Parents loosen their grip on boys, and some go haywire, while girls feel responsible for their family. He said they teach democracy in social science classes and students elect their captain.

In a restaurant on the way to Amritsar I talked with 4 girls in 10 and plus 1 (grade 11), ages 15 to 16, dressed in jeans and t-shirts. They said today’s youth are more fashionable, influenced by the media, more educated, and girls have more equality. They text with their friends, and waste time, which is not good for their health. The girls said they would bring back black money sent abroad by corrupt officials, help the poor, and they want equality between men and women. Parents send their boys to other states for better education, and early marriage for girls is still a problem. Parents are more protective of girls, more restrictive. They said their parents force them to study, especially for board exams. The 10th grade board exam takes 2 hours, five times, covering 10 subjects. Some teachers are concerned about students’ exam success but some not. Students have to get above 90 or must repeat the test.


The Gap Between the Rich and the Poor, Urban and Rural


India is divided by a growing educated middle class and the poor who live in slums or village huts. As in other developing countries, we see a major difference between rural and urban living, with earlier marriage and child bearing in the countryside. My impressions of urban India were free roaming dogs and cows, people sleeping on street meridians, child beggars turning summersaults, tapping on window, and carrying babies. (See photos.) Boys play cricket in any bare dirt. I saw several men with no legs on a skateboard-type board, only saw a few wheel chairs, and most dwellings have steps rather than elevators. Construction workers live in tents made of plastic tarps for years. Construction is done by hand, both men and women, with baskets, few power tools, and bamboo scaffolding

Traffic is intense with tuktuks, bikes, and horse drawn carts, honking with whole families on a scooter without helmets, or just the driver wearing a helmet. Small narrow streets are crowded with traffic, narrow shops for bangles, saris, gas burners, etc. Trash is everywhere, some pick through it, cows and dog graze, and what’s left over is burned. In urban areas the poor live in tents near the road and pick through 2,000 tons of solid waste daily.

In New Delhi, I interviewed Pavni, 22, when I stayed with her family (see video[21]). Her mother is a homemaker, her father is a pharmacist and she has a younger and older brother. She works for Google and on weekends studies French at an open university. She didn’t get into the Master’s program she wanted because of reservations, called Affirmative Action in the US. She reported lots of pressure on students because of restrictions on university spaces because of reservations for backward and scheduled classes, minority religions, etc. She has a friend whose parents are Christian and Muslim and got points for that even though her exam scores were lower than Pavni’s. College admission depends on the 12-year board exams. In high school she would take a half hour break after school, and then study six hours with a tutor.

Pavni said young people are influenced by western culture, because of the media. Youth are not as reserved due to westernization. “We have the freedom to go out and study and establish a profession, while my mother’s generation married at 20.” More women are aware of women’s rights, partly because of TV news. They know more about health but don’t use the word feminist. People were more involved with the extended family, now we’re more nuclear family; we don’t live jointly as much although my uncles live below us. Youth are more money oriented, instead of values. We’re influenced by the Internet. We were more likely to go out and play and now kids use IPad and Xbox and gain weight like my younger brother. (He said we joke on Facebook, stay in touch, and compete for likes on photos.) The Internet makes the world smaller but also we’re more dependent on technology. We hardly see family because we’re so busy, but my father tries to get the family together every weekend.

A film titled Road, Movie (2010) illustrates the rural-urban divide, as does an article in India Today about the “Secret Life of Indian Teens.”[22] Caste is less important in urban areas, but young people still deal with caste discrimination, lack of schooling, and the dowry system where families are expected to give expensive gifts to the groom’s family.[23] Dowry has been illegal since 1961, as is child labor, but both practices are still common.

India has a huge population of poor people; 77% (about 836 million people) live on less than 50 cents a day, despite having one of the world’s fastest growing economies.[24] India has the most billionaires in Asia and also the world’s largest number of poor people—more than a quarter of the world’s hungry people live in India. A 2004 World Bank study found that anti-poverty funds end up “serving the wealthy and powerful far better than the poor.”[25]

Millions of poor children leave the countryside to live on their own in cities, mostly boys who earn money by begging, stealing, or collecting bottles, as described in a book about the invisible children of India.[26] Many are addicted to glue or paint thinner that numbs hunger pains while destroying the brain. Even after being a child star of Slumdog Millionaire, the nine-year-old girl, Rubina Ali, lived in a one-room shack that flooded with sewer water, including scorpions and rats. Author Shelley Steele observes,


“Slumdog Millionaire” shows us a side of India, and a way of life, that hundreds of thousands of children in Mumbai alone struggle to survive every day. Today there are 25 million Indian children living without parents, on the streets or in orphanages or other institutional homes–some good, and some bad or corrupt like the one portrayed in the movie. They live in orphanages, slums, railway stations or on the streets, where they are highly vulnerable to abuse, harassment, HIV/AIDS, and being trafficked into child labor if they’re lucky, brothels if they’re not.[27]


Indian teacher Rajni Jaimini criticizes the popularity of the Slumdog film:


It is a very commercial image of India that sells all over the world, because that is what the world would like to believe about India-the land of spirituality, yoga, curry, cows and beggars. A very Orientalist image, a term coined by scholar Edward Said [In his 1978 book Orientalism he wrote, “As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will-to-truth, and knowledge.”] The western world is still not ready to see Indians as living thinking people.

I read what you have written about India and I cannot say that it’s not true but I still want to add that it’s not the whole truth. Sometimes we have certain cultural perceptions about life and we think that who looks at life in a different manenr is savage, rustic, and backward. It was the reason given by the Euorpeans to colonize the Asian and African world, to destroy Native Americans. You think that anybody who doesn’t know how to use a knife and fork hasn’t learned the first lesson in civilization but honestly we laught at the Americans because they don’t even wash their behinds [with water]. It’s a common joke.



Nearly two-thirds of India’s 1.1 billion people live on farms, in villages with rutted dirt roads, inconsistent power supply or no electricity, water shortages, and dirty rivers. Even in a city like Kolkata, Rita Banerji struggles with “getting up every morning and not knowing if my electricity, or cooking gas, or telephone or internet is going to conk out…and I have to go running from office to office trying to get it fixed! My Internet is down every 2-3 days or so slow I can’t move the pages.”

UNICEF reports 665 million Indians have no toilets (people use the fields). Some low-income people endure open pools of sewage, swarms of flies, and dust from unpaved roads, while sleeping in small open-air huts. Piles of trash are disposed of by burning that releases toxic chemicals from plastics, hospitals are distant, kids lack affordable schools, and corrupt politicians keep government funds from getting to the poor. Since many poor people don’t have birth certificates—about half of Indians, the government tries to avoid corrupt middlemen by funding individuals through their fingerprints and iris scans.[28] India has a higher rate of malnutrition among children under the age of three (46% in 2007) than any other country. Most of the poor work in the informal labor sector with no job security or benefits like social security.

As well as having millions of illiterates, India generates 2.5 million university graduates a year. They often live with their parents and may provide up to 70% of family income but parents expect to have input into all their decisions.[29] (India only 22% of female university grads are employed, but has slightly more national legislators than the US, 21% vs. 18.5%[30].) India educates over 300,000 engineers a year, while nearly 40% of adults are illiterate.[31] The government reports the literacy rate in the country is 65%, 75% for males and 54% for females.[32] Teachers often don’t show up in classroom on a regular basis, partly because corrupt officials siphon off government money for schools and hospitals. The majority of the secondary schools are private, often run by religious groups, but require fees. As well as lacking school fees, many of the poor children are malnourished and stunted, hampering their ability to learn—over 40% of children under five are stunted, especially true for later born children.[33]         Once a boy is born investment drops off in children who follow him, especially for girls considered a burden.

Rural youth are less likely to go to school, especially girls, tribal and low caste children. Girls are only 47% of primary school students and this trickles up to only 11% women in the 2010 Lok Sabha, the parliament.[34] (The US House of Representatives is not much better at only 18% women.) The government tries to correct sexism by reserving 30% of places for females in colleges and some jobs and in municipal legislative bodies.

An example of the life of a rural girl, Saka was age 16 in 2003, when researcher Jane Dyson observed her family in the Indian Himalayas. The Rajput higher-caste family lived in a one-room house shared with two cows, two bulls, and a buffalo. They made their living growing crops, from their animals, and from the nearby forest. None of the neighboring villages had electricity or sanitation, so streams or pumps gave water and the forest provided firewood. Children started working with their families from age five. Despite wanting her to have a Class Ten education in order to insure a good marriage (although not asked about her preference by her mother, she told Dyson she wanted a husband with good land she could farm), her family took her out of school at Grade Eight in order to work. Girls of her age were under pressure to maintain a good reputation and not spend time alone with boys. Saka explained, “If we don’t act carefully, people would say dirty things about us.” She had a reputation for being a hard worker, an important reason for selecting a bride, but she remained unmarried and was the main worker for her family.

Mobility exists from village to city for girls too. Over one-third of tech industry employees are women. An example of the new professional, Veena Parashuram is an engineer who grew up in a village where life was so simple she didn’t use a spoon or fork until she went to boarding school at age 10. Her parents wanted her to return to the village for an arranged marriage, but a teacher told her girls could become anything they wanted; “My mind opened up,” she reports. She doesn’t “like to follow rules that were set down hundreds of years ago.”[35] Traditions are changing for educated young people. In contrast to rural simplicity and social cohesion, an urban girl describes being modern. A Catholic girl, 19, from Kerala (the state with the most Christians), Vijaya writes,


At my home I am considered to be modern. Because I do things according to my decisions, but I lead a better life than many of my peers. I will have a good degree in my hand, wear jeans and casuals, got a mobile phone, own a computer and so on. I don’t have a problem in wearing anything; I mean new kinds of dresses such as sleeveless blouse, etc. But I restrict myself because I do not want to invite problems. Now times have changed. Even in our class no girl wants to get married so quickly. Few years back this was not the situation. In a degree class it was difficult to find girls who were not married. Nowadays girls prefer to marry after post graduation, preferably after getting a job. The charm of marriage has diminished among the young people. No one is really excited to get married. I don’t know the reason. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t get involved in relationships. But generally serious love affair is lacking in the campus. There may be affairs, but for the sake of it, but students now discuss sex more freely.”[36]


Youth Diaspora

A major problem is the tension between consumerism and high unemployment. The government’s taskforce on employment found that nearly 60% of the unemployed are educated, completing Class 10 or above, and 80% are ages 19 to 29.[37] Some young people migrate to the Persian Gulf, Europe or North America in search of work. Recent estimates are the Indian diaspora has reached 25 million in more than 130 countries.[38] Indians who return home after working in the US report that the workplace in the US emphasizes egalitarianism, individualism, and performing tasks. In India it’s about hierarchy, collectivism and relationships, according to returnee Vikas Saxena.[39] Banerji explained,


The no. 1 aim of the majority of the Indian youth today is to become rich.  It is oddly enough a very traditional Indian value–this aim to get rich. There are Indian communities settled in Africa, the Caribbean, and SE Asia for more than five generations and from the start they’ve immigrated for commercial reasons. Even now if you go to most middle class homes in any city, there is a whole generation that seems to have almost disappeared in the age group 22-50 or so. Every other house you go to you will find that their children in that age group are settled in the U.S., Europe, or Australia. And this is all economic immigration.


What happens to traditional roles in the Indian diaspora? Bend it Like Beckam (2002) shows the struggles of a Sikh girl living in London whose mother doesn’t want her to play football/soccer because of the immodesty of wearing shorts. Indian tennis star, Sania Mirza, from a Muslim family, got criticism from clerics for “dangerous dressing,” wearing shorts and T-shirts playing tennis. She’s an independent thinker, as you can see on her blog.[40]


Hybrid Youth Culture and Attitudes

The generation born in the decade following India’s independence from British rule in 1947, “grew up shy, obedient, and socialist in the 1960s and ’70s.”[41] In contrast, western media influences the new generation. Indian reporter Manjeet Kripalani observes that Indian youth, “proudly mix Indian values with Western packaging….more materialist, more globally informed opinions. They enjoy wearing saris and still admire Mahatma Gandhi. But they also like wearing blue jeans, drinking fizzy sodas, and watching MTV.” MTV video jockey Cyrus Broacha, 28, explains, ”We are a hybrid.” This ability to blend cultures makes Indians proud of their contribution to world music, fashion, and literature.

Subroto Bagchi is the father of two daughters, age 23 and 20, and a business manager of mostly young employees who observes:[42]


The current generation has, by and large, rejected politics as a prime mover. They have grown up with a TV, MTV, and a telephone either at home or in the vicinity. They still go the temple, and most of them seriously believe that God exists. For the first time, it is O.K. in India for a kid to say that he or she wants to be a theater person, a singer, a fashion designer, a writer, a cricket player as a profession without parents losing sleep. It also means that they had multiple choices to pick up a role model. For the first time in India, business is not a bad word. It is O.K. to be a businessman. When I look at young people around me, I see more hope than helplessness.


In a short video interview with Indian women business leaders, some of whom inherited their leadership from their fathers,[43] a business professor explains that more women employed in technology leads to more flexible work arrangements and a more gender-neutral business world. The increase of smaller families encourages fathers to pass their businesses to daughters. Political role-models include Sonia Gandhi, the most powerful figure in the ruling Congress Party, like her mother-in-law former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

A 2007 study by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies interviewed 5,000 youth in locations around India about their attitudes because “there is a new world rising and we appear ill equipped to understand it.”[44] Shehroz, a Pakistani (where youth under the age of 20 are 63% of the population), compared the findings with his observations of youth in his country marked in parenthesis and italics. Indian youth show a high level of interest in politics, although they are slightly less likely to vote than the general population, even though the voting age was lowered to age 18. Affluent youth are less aware of political issues because they’re not dependent on the state, while lower income youth are better informed and have a higher voting rate, according to teacher Meenakshi Tandon. (A lot of my friends are interested in politics and yes, they are least likely to vote.) Women are less interested in politics than men (True in Pakistan too). Celebrities star in ads urging Indians to vote and there are 36 TV news channels for youth to chose from.

Youths trust democracy (They do in Pakistan too but are fed up with corruption. Moreover, the youth here do not have much knowledge about other forms of government.) Their top priority for government action is to deal with poverty and provide job guarantees, followed by providing quality health care and education (Right now the youth are more concerned about security here.) Many kids stop school at 15 to work (The youth of middle class and above don’t stop school. But many of the poor class do and sometimes they don’t even go to school.) About 836 million people live on less than 50 cents a day. They are not on the ladder to development and progress, caught in a poverty trap. For example, two-thirds of India’s population of a billion people lives in the nation’s 600,000 villages. Many villagers migrate to the cities in search of work and end up begging on the streets. Despite India’s economic growth, the disparities between wealth and poverty are enormous. India and Nigeria account for nearly one third of deaths of children five years and younger (223 million children died worldwide before their fifth birthday in 2013).[45]

According to the survey of 5,000, young Indian’s primary concerns are not corruption, illiteracy or terrorism; however, when I looked at over 500 Indian youth groups on Facebook, corruption and terrorism were repeated themes because of the Mumbai terrorist bombing in 2009 and Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption. The elder (74) became a youth icon. Only 4% of youth in the survey expressed concern about the high levels of illiteracy and lack of educational facilities. Corruption is the main problem in India, according to an American-Indian couple who recently visited their homeland and told me about it. They said bribes are necessary to get into good schools or public service jobs or to prevent getting a ticket from traffic police, and this was confirmed by Indian youth I talked with in 2012.
With the exception of educated urban youth, a large majority of young Indians is not aware of globalization and other changes in the world today (True for Pakistan too.) TV is a major leisure activity for most youth, especially those who are educated and live in urban areas. Among illiterate youth, more than half never watch TV. Internet use is mainly limited to educated urban youth: Overall, only 10% use the Internet.
In regards to health issues, more than two-thirds do not approve of drinking alcohol—women are more against it than men (Although a minority of youth do drink alcohol, it is illegal in Pakistan because it is forbidden in Islam.) Young people’s top health priorities are for the government to tackle the problem of AIDS, followed by reducing child death. India has the third most AIDS cases of any country (topped by south Africa and Nigeria), as well as 21% of world child deaths and 23% of maternal deaths.
About gender, although fashionable clothes are important for a large percent of the youth, young men are more fashion conscious than girls (Over here, girls and guys are equally conscious.) Nearly 40% of teens report that dressing in the latest styles is important. Blue jeans are a unisex symbol of modernity (True. But in Pakistan it is unacceptable for girls to wear jeans because Islam commands moderate dressing. Still a lot of urban girls wear jeans and tight clothes).
Females express more conservative family values—nearly half, compared to about one-third of men. Those in higher income families tend to be more progressive. (Studies and education are emphasized a lot–at least urban areas–for girls. A lot of stress and focus is being given to educating girls and people are very supportive of it. But if a family is poor they would rather spend their resources and money on educating their sons rather than daughters because it is the sons who will give back to parents in their old age.)

Young people tend to have friends with the same religion, caste and gender—only half have friends of the other gender. (There is no caste system in Pakistan and majority is Muslim. Friendship with same gender is true, but this depends on the area whether it is rural or urban. But people would be friends with other religions too; for example, my group of friends has a Christian whose family migrated from China many many years ago. I also had other Pakistani Christian friends.) They are also traditional in their expectation that their parents will arrange marriage (60%) and planning to raise their children as they were raised (55%). Those with higher education are less traditional, with friends from the other gender, castes, and religions, and more informed about global issues.
Where they live is a major influence, as youth in small towns and cities have high expectations for their future and have more conservative family values, while a majority of urban youth is aware of globalization (True here too. That is why often it is difficult to generalize about teens here), only 24% of those in the villages are aware. There’s increasing violence in rural India, as Dalit low caste youth protest discrimination. Nearly 15% of Dalit responders reported they frequently face discrimination, compared to 10% of tribal youth. (There is no caste system in Pakistan and everyone is equal, although there are social classes like the rich and the poor.)

An Indian magazine, Outlook interviewed 15 young Indians between the ages of 15 and 25 (2004).[46] They want success and happiness. What they would change about their country is to end corruption. This was a frequent theme in Indian SpeakOut responses. Zavier, a high school administrator in Tamil Nadu, explained to me in 2011, “There is lot in the media about the corrupted politicians recently! Our central government and Ministers are involved in very large financial scams, which is widely published.[47] Hence every good student in India wants to see the country free of corruption! I pray that they stand up for what they feel now and sustain it in their lives.” He pointed out that India’s Right to Information Act 2005 allows a citizen to request information from the government and a reply is mandated in 30 days.[48] Public agencies are required to computerize their records and to publish some of it, with a Public Information Officer in charge. Zavier said there’s a number Indians can call if an official like a police officer asks for a bribe.

Girls interviewed in Outlook are just as ambitious as boys: Reeni, a 17-year old public school student says, ”I want to be financially independent. I want to earn as soon as possible. I don’t want to rely on anybody for my basic necessities. I also want emotional support from my family and want to remain close to them forever. I want my own money so that I can look after my family and fulfill their wishes.” Another girl, Divya, 19, an engineering student, stated, “I want fame, money, glamour and recognition in whatever I do. I also want to fulfill my parents’ dreams along with mine.” A more simple approach is taken by a female teacher, Parul, 25; “As a schoolteacher nothing brings me more happiness than when I see that “I know ma’am” look on my students’ faces. I don’t want a very fast-paced life. Going daily to school to my students and coming back home on time to my parents suits me just fine.” However, some women stay away from employment because of safety fears: Banerji explained in 2014, “Women feel more and more unsafe staying out after 5 pm. There are gang rapes reported every other day now,” with a rape committed every 22 minutes.

Banerji emailed that, “Young India refuses to challenge the old ideologies and traditions that have reduced women to the status of trash in this country.”


Within India more than 60% are unaware of the degree of female genocide in India (they know its a lot but they don’t know how many). But when they are informed of the scale they don’t doubt it. They hear about feticides, infanticides and dowry murders on regular enough basis on the news and people talking, so they don’t question the scale of it. But what is worrying is that we don’t see the reactions that we think are necessary to gear a public condemnation or rejection of the practices. So for instance outside India our survey shows responses like horror, shock, anger, etc. But within India we are not seeing these responses. And we feel that we are now dealing with is a widespread and deeply rooted psychosis.

                   So yes they respect the older generations–and so customs like dowry, dowry related murders, female feticide and female infanticide perpetuate.  And it gets worse every year. Old India is based on the idea of the patriarchy, which is absolute in its control, and submission of women. The old sayings are “May you be the mother of a hundred sons.”  “Having a daughter is like spitting in your neighbor’s yard.” “A girl leaves her parents’ house in her wedding palanquin. It is only her bier that can return.” And so young India refuses to challenge the old ideologies and traditions that have reduced women to the status of trash in this country. 


Youth Activism in Politics

Youth who had been silent for decades got involved in the anti-corruption campaign led by elder Anna Hazare, wearing white caps with the slogan “I am Anna.” In SpeakOut surveys, the main political issues are corruption and poverty. A well-known novelist, Chetan Bhat observed that despite the usual cynical defeatist attitude of older generations, the youth were galvanized by Anna Hazare’s Gandhi-like techniques to fight the establishment. An anticorruption activist, Hazare (age 74), went on a well publicized hunger strike in 2011—joined by hundreds of thousands of young protesters around the country–to demand that Parliament pass legislation setting up independent anticorruption agencies. He opposed a weak Parliamentary bill that would cover less than 1% of government workers, meant to silence his public protests.

The Lokpals (a new word meaning “caretaker of the people”) new institutions to investigate corruption were established in 2013 to monitor public officials at both the national and state levels. Parliament also agreed to Hazare’s demand for a public grievance process. He told his supporters, “You have done wonders. I could sense a disconnection between the aspirations of the young and the leaders. I never imagined a 74-year-old could tap into it so well.”[49] Novelist Chetan Bhagat, who writes about middle-class Indians in their 20s, observed,


With Anna’s repeated success at shaking the government, it has also become cool to be righteous. The young generation, brought up to believe that power is everything, now sees a role model in Hazare, who is taking the mickey out of India’s most powerful by goodness and virtue alone. This mass infusion of morality in young Indians will be the biggest contribution of this movement, beyond the actual law. Truth has trounced power, and that does not happen very often in India.


Shivaz, 19, a computer student reveals, “I am willing to work hard and put my heart and soul into my work for my country but I need to see some results. I want to go abroad because the word ‘India’ stands for corruption right now. You just give and give and give. What you get in return is nothing compared to what you would get for the same effort abroad.” Divya, 19, confirms, “We have a rich culture, warm people, great food, everything. I believe that we live in a society and we must live by it but I want an end to corruption that’s consuming all our lives.”

Rahul Gandhi frankly told students that it usually takes money or family connections like his (he’s the son of Indira Gandhi whose father was the first prime minister) to enter politics, but he lost in 2014 national elections to the son of a tea seller. Youth supported the non-Congress parties in the 2014 national elections, including a party that grew out of the anti-corruption campaign–the Aam Aadmi Party, and the BJP that put Narendra Modi in power as the new prime minister (see a slide show of Indian youth who backed different parties.[50]) At age 63, he’s the first prime minister born after liberation and beat out the younger Rahul Ganhdi, age 43. In a Pew Research Center poll of 18 to 29-year-olds, 61% said BJP would do more to create jobs than Congress (17%). A political scientist predicted, “If the next government also fails to deliver, then many Indians might be tempted to see the Chinese governance model as superior to the Indian one.”

The attitudes of the poor are changing as villagers can surf the Internet on cheap smartphones. India is the third largest market for smartphones, after China and the US. A popular Indian app, Hike, allows young users to keep their social lives secret from their parents. As a taxi driver in Varanasi said, “The Congress remembers us during elections and gives the poor a crutch, but we want to stand on our own feet.”[51] A young man, Deepak Kumar, 17, said at a Modi rally in Uttarakhand that he expected Modi to start by ending “atrocities against women.” He also wanted him to stop price rises, improve education, and clean up the Ganges River. If Modi doesn’t deliver, he will be kicked out in five years. Modi was compared to Britain’s Margaret Thatcher in his conservative emphasis on middle-class individual initiative and opposition to reservation of legislative seats for women and minority religious groups.

Farmers go into debt to send their children to private schools in hopes they won’t have to be farmers.[52] These voters with rising aspirations elected BJP’s Modi who campaigned to spur development, as by building new cities and putting in a high-speed rail line. He also promised a toilet in every house within five years. Congress’ 60 years of programs for the poor, such as a food subsidy bill that established a legal right for food, and Rahul Gandhi’s support for reservation of 30% of parliament’s seats for women, didn’t override their corruption problems. Gandhi told a rally of all women, “India cannot be a superpower until we empower women. States where women are empowered are progressing fast.”[53] He appointed six women out of 24 cabinet members.[54]

Principal Sekar explained that the Hindu BJP nationalist party that won in 2014 elections is based on Hindu sects such as RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) which teach the ancient Ramayana epic where Lord Ram, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, makes his wife go through trial by fire to prove her purity after being kidnapped by King Ravana. RSS teaches that Ram is the ideal male. The senior leaders of RSS are expected to be Brahmacharis, never married. (The history of celibacy and church fathers in Europe shows that fear of sex can lead to viewing women as the source of trouble—Eve, Delilah, Jezebel.) Sekar adds that, “The conservative right wing demagogues in the US, who talk about rape and women in the most obnoxious manner, have their brethren here. With the Congress Government considered a disaster [corruption is a major problem], the BJP came to power.”

BJP, like most political parties, is opposed to the reservation of a third of Parliamentary seats for women proposed in 2010. “Thus, ground realities are much the same for all parties today; BJP for all its urban, developmental face, believes that the role of women is inside the house tending to the family in the old orthodox way.” He observes that, “With rising inequality in terms of child sex ratios coming to roost already, there is limited relevance to what the political parties think. I consider rape and its consequences much more a societal issue than anything else.” He confirms, “We, the male folk in India, still in the vast majority of cases, act out the MCP [male chauvinist pig] role to a T.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a member of RSS since he was eight, appealed to the 150 million young first-time voters (aged 18 to 23) with his tech-savvy campaign with nearly three million Twitter followers and use of holographic imagery in campaign rallies. His enthusiastic young right-wing campaigners used livestreaming video, blogs, and other social media as well as going door-to-door to insure voter registration. Young men in jeans and T-shirts literally ran to his rallies. He pointed to his humble origins with pride, helping his father serve tea in a train station as a boy. He poked fun at the urban “English-speaking elite.”[55] His parents arranged his marriage at age 13; he married at 18, but the couple spent little time together and didn’t have children. His campaign was fueled by disgust with Congress Party corruption and slowed economic growth. He referred to the Congress Party as an “aging woman.” He frequently asked during his campaign why India lags behind other countries in developing health care, education and infrastructure.

Youth and women’s wings of political parties weren’t focused on their concerns, until the 2014 election campaigns realized that youth and females were voting in greater numbers than in the past.[56] Parties started including images of women and youth in their campaign materials. The political parties include large women’s and youth’s wings to encourage voter registration. Their issues center on education, safety and unemployment. They also work with the trade unions affiliated with them, and women are involved in social movements for ecology, various ethnic and labor groups.

Feminist Rutu Menon states that the Indian women’s movement is unique in the diversity of its alliances, including specific government programs. The legacy is no progressive movement can ignore the “woman question” in its activities. Until recently, few young people are active in politics because they view it as sleazy and they’ve focused on getting a job. They often ask what difference does their vote make, but being 14% of the electorate has influence. In the 2014 elections their top issue was corruption, also seen in the SpeakOut responses.

The Youth Ki Awaaz (YKA, Voice of the Youth) group worked to get out the vote and provide information to the around 150 million new voters ages 18 to 23. It was founded by 23-year-old Asnshul Tewari in 2008. They believe well-publicized problems with violence and corruption and increased cost of living “have transformed this one-time dispassionate generation into a politically sensitized group.” A 20-year-old student, Shadwal said, ”A few years back I though my vote didn’t matter. Today I know better. If we want change, we will have to work for it.” [57] YKA claims to be the largest online voice for youth. In preparation for national elections, it collected over 80,000 “demands” from diverse young people summarized in the “unManifesto” in March 2014.[58] The goals were delivered to over 100 politicians.

YKA priorities, in this order were: Mandate youth participation in democratic processes with quotas for youth and women politicians and fining non-voters, make education relevant and spend 7% of GDP on education. A recent report found that half of the seven-year-olds don’t know letters and one in five 10-year-olds can’t read sentences.[59] Estimates are jobs will be needed for up to 90 million youth who will enter the labor force in the next 15 years; otherwise, more people will work in agriculture.[60]

The other YKA goals are to ensure the safety and dignity of women as by reserving one third of police forces for women officers and providing clean public toilets, create viable employment for all including vocational training and special jobs for rural youth, government transparency, reform health care as with free health care in rural areas and safe drinking water, improve infrastructure with access to electricity and public transport, improve the environment, improve the safety of sex workers and transgendered people, and stem urban migration by improving farming practices.

Educators report that students are interested in volunteering and doing service, not just making money. Mukul Mangalick, history teacher at Delhi’s Ramjas College reports: “The young may be cynical but they do not want to be subsumed by all that’s happening around them. They are all searching for something meaningful to do. When I asked for volunteers for Gujarat to help riot victims, I was surprised that there were so many takers. And they were not activists but ordinary students. The young are not disconnected. Very often we fail to connect with them,” he says.[61]

The young people interviewed by Indian magazine Outlook would like to help change the system. A young woman law student, noted, “I want less censure on youth activities by the government/authorities. They make issues out of superficial things like couples hugging in public or going out in the night rather than focusing on the real issues of eve-teasing (sexual harassment of women at work and in public), crime against women, drugs etc. that are gaining alarming proportions in our cities.” A business trainee, 22, Nitin, states, “I want my country to become a super power. And for that it needs to be rich. I want more privatization of the public sector. I want my country to be so powerful that even America can’t exert any pressure on us and we can blast Pakistan anytime it tries any of its stunts with us.” This attitude led young people to vote for Prime Minister Modi. In his first major speech as Prime Minister on Independence Day, he addressed women’s issues, stating that parents should control their sons, not just daughters, “If only restrictions are also put on sons, there will be no rapists, no Maoists and no terrorists. Those who rape are someone’s sons and parents should stop them before they take this wrong path.”[62] He also asked for the end of female infanticide. He was nudged by a Change.Org petition campaign led by Shelly Mahajan and Youth Ki Awaaz that garnered 31,000 signatures asking him to address women’s safety.


Traditional Sexism

India was ranked in 114th place in the Gender Gap Index of 2014 conducted by the World Economic Forum. Hinduism has a long tradition of powerful goddesses; their temples and pictures are ubiquitous, in taxicabs, in stores, etc. India is a religious land of many temples, with Hindu sadhus in orange robes, Sikhs in turbans, Muslim men in caps and women in black robes. Devout Hindus put deities to bed at night and wake them in the morning in their home shrine and Sikhs do the same with their holy scriptures called the guru. Respect for elders is evidenced by touch elders’ feet, as the elder intercepts and holds your hands. Some are tolerant and eclectic about religion: in a Sikh home of father, son and daughter doctors, they had a statue of Buddha and a photo of Sai Baba, as well as Sikh gurus.

Banerji reviews the “yo-yo” history of religion in India from celebrating sexuality to abhorring it to find a precedent for gender equality and a healthy acknowledgement of human sexuality. She found a model in Tantric philosophy, based on equality and balance between female and male, Shakti and Shiva. Gandhi used the term stree shakti (woman power). But in modern times, sex is not discussed; even kissing in movies was unusual and very chaste, although this is changing. The term pativrata refers to a Hindu woman who regards devotion to her husband and his family as her religious duty, which in the past could include joining him on his funeral pyre. The student group elected to govern Delhi University’s Student Union initiated a campaign aimed at female students against “love jihad,” defined as “Live-in relationships go against the grain of Indian culture and the institution of family.”[63] An example of resistance to airing sexual problems is production of the film Water (2005), about child widows in the 1930s, was shut down in Varanasi by Hindu fundamentalist groups and the state government where poor houses for widows still exist.[64] Four years later woman director Deepak Mehta completed the film in Shri Lanka and the DVD is available in the West.

More recent films portray women who aren’t victims or sexual temptresses: The World Before Her (2012) documents the lives of two young women, one a militant Hindu nationalist and one a beauty contestant. The Bollywood film Queen tells the story of Rani who is dumped by her finance before their wedding, so she goes on her honeymoon by herself. In Kahaani (2012) the heroine searches for her missing husband in Kolkata by herself.

As in the Victorian Era in the West, repression generates a rich pornography underground: Indians rank sixth in the world for online viewing of pornography, as explained in India in Love by Ira Trivedi (2014). Her research revealed that premarital sex is increasing along with abortion, STDs, and sexual sell in ads and films. Divorce rates are up along with love marriages (from 5% to 30% in the last decade), and 77% of single women–but only 59% of single men believe women should be able to choose their husbands.[65] Trivedi reports that an estimated 75% of urban youth ages 18 to 24 engage in premarital sex. Sex is complicated by the fact that gender selection of infants produced about 17 million more men in the 15 to 34 age group–up from seven million in 1991, perhaps part of the cause of the increase in rape and other sexual crimes. These unmarried men are called “bare branches.” She points to the influence of the Internet and cell phones in making it easier to connect anonymously and be more open about sex.

Caste is part of Hinduism. Brahmins and Banias go to better schools and are over-represented in the professions and as business leaders, especially true for men in urban areas.[66] Writer Ramachandra Guha observes,


In India today, there are gross and apparently growing inequalities of income, wealth, consumption, property, access to quality education and healthcare, and avenues for dignified employment. . . The life chances of a Dalit remain grossly inferior to that of a Brahmin; of a Muslim to that of a Hindu; of a tribal to that of a Hindu or Muslim; of a villager to that of a city-dweller; of an Oriya or Jharkhandi to that of a Maharashtrian or Tamil.. . . . These inequalities are intensified by corruption, the diversion of public money. . . into the hands of politicians and bureaucrats.[67]


A reporter who lives in India relates that in the South, Dalits (formerly called untouchables) are still expected to bow their heads and not stand close to upper caste persons in Kerala and lower castes are not admitted to temples in Tamil Nadu.[68] In the north, a low caste Nayak told him, “Still to this day we cannot eat or drink in the house of many of the people in this village.” A well-known Indian sociologist, André Béteille explains that the Backward Classes—the official term, comprise about 30% of the country and includes Scheduled Tribes (Adivasis), Scheduled Castes (with thousands of subcastes or jati) and Other Backward Classes.[69] Modern education provides the best solvent for dissolving the barriers between these hierarchical groups defined in terms of purity vs. pollution, according to Béteille. He explains, “Social superiority was defined not so much in terms of wealth as purity, and the stigma of pollution rather than poverty was what defined social inferiority.”[70] Untouchability only exists in India, he adds, but it was also the home of Buddha “the first great protagonist of equality.”

The world’s first Affirmative Action plan and the most extensive quota system was implemented in India after independence with the aim of integrating Untouchables into mainstream society, by giving scheduled castes and tribes preferences in higher education and government jobs. Writer Suit Raman evaluates the program as a “disappointing and costly failure” after 50 years because it strengthened caste stratifications and mainly benefited the élites among the lower castes.[71] He points out discrimination continues, especially in rural areas and fewer than half of Indians enroll in secondary school. The process is complicated by the fact that over 3,700 backward classes are identified and each benefits in some way from reservations.

Banerji emailed about caste and the government’s affirmative action in response to asking her if caste was blurring in urban areas.


                            No, the caste attitude has not changed that much even in urban India. Right now there has been a spurt in “honor killings” in Delhi where inter-caste couples are lynched by their families. And the reason it has suddenly increased is because some prominent politicians have been justifying the “sentiments” of the people.  Caste remains largely because more than 90% of marriages in India are still arranged–even in cities–and they go by region, religion, caste and subcaste!!!! If you see matrimonial columns in newspapers that is what you see! 

I was sitting in the British Council in Calcutta among the crème de la crème of India’s intelligentsia, listening to women talk about how they have been treated because of their caste. When it was the turn of the audience–quite a few asserted they were Brahmins and needed to protect the purity of their lineage through marriage. And then a discussion ensued that was flabbergasting! It was on what last names represented the Kuleen Brahmins–the highest of the highest. Many on the panel, academics and their likes, jumped in enthusiastically. Not one person objected to this highly obscene and insensitive response.

                            Yes, Kerala has been experimenting [with identifying students by first name and last initial].  It is one of two communist states in India and tries to be “secular.”  I don’t know if it has worked, but I do know they have the highest literacy rates. I also know that despite that, last year they had about 25,000 female infanticides. 


Anthropologist Ritty Lukose lived with and went to classes with lower caste college students, ages 16 to 23 in a small town in the southern state of Kerala. Going to an English- speaking school is respected, although the college teachers Lukose observed mostly spoke in the local language of Malayalam. Economic liberalism was emerging in India when Ms. Lukose began her research in the mid-1990s. ”We are only aware of caste while filling out government forms,” said Trisha Singh, 23, a Pune law student: ”It’s more ‘What do you do?’ that determines your status.” Some young people think globally, like a boy she interviewed wanted to work for the United Nations because ”I can be a ‘world citizen’–any country, and they will accept me,” without regard for class or caste.[72] A media executive, Velu Shankar, worries that, “The craving for global acceptance and identification as a global citizen also seems to have made today’s youngsters embarrassed about the Indian realities seen negatively in the West.”[73]

To be popular, a boy named Devan explained to Lukose that a carefree boy should own brand-name jeans, T-shirts, a motorbike, have cash to spend, and have a girlfriend. “My idea of the good life is that you must have a lot of money,” and ideally a car, explained Devan. With a good salary, he thought he could attract a good wife.[74] Leftist groups, including some student organizations, view globalization or “liberalization” critically, believing “the spread of consumerism” leads to “the sale of India” to global capitalism.[75] Lukose reported the government of the state of Kerala attempted to lessen the influence of consumer popular culture on college campuses in 2005 by banning fashion shows, “cinematic dances” seen in Bollywood movies, and mobile phones from campuses.

The goal for both sexes she observed is to avoid embarrassment. Students often discuss embarrassing incidents that occurred that day. Girls need to dress modestly and keep their eyes downcast to avoid “Eve-teasing” where men make comments about women in public. A male student, Shijo, explained, “When you walk in an unmindful way, you will get comments. Nobody will like it if a girl walks around feeling a little superior. They will say something in order to lower her, bring her back down.”[76]


Youth Conservatism

Principal Atamaram Sekar explained in an email in 2014,


The average Indian woman is still very very insecure and diffident; the societal belief of the husband as a protector runs deep. Menfolk, urban and rural, yearn for the kind of slavish control over their wives they can only now be nostalgic about when their fathers and grandfathers talk about it to them. Tectonic mind shifts are rapidly changing well-set traditions. However this is happening in urban pockets and progressing with heavy resistance from the old guard.


Sekar confirmed that even in middle-class urban families, “Boys get away with a lot more at home, are given much more importance,” so, for example, a girl is expected to bring a glass of water to her brother, but not visa versa. Girls are expected to be more religious, and in the SpeakOut survey of over 100 students in his school in Gujarat, girls were much more likely to turn to spirituality to cope with stress (22%), than boys (6%). Mr. Sekar noted that girls are less restless and better students until they start the eighth standard/grade when boys catch up.

“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).[77] It documented 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 their labor was needed at home. About one-third of both sexes weren’t interested in going to school and only about 10% were members of voluntary 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. One-quarter of the females weren’t allowed to go out of the home by themselves, with girls in the south having more freedom. 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 with their friends instead. 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.

Saanvi, 22, (not her real name as she’s afraid of reprisal for her criticism) is a student at G.B.Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, a prestigious public technology university In the state of Uttarakhand. She emailed that she doesn’t feel she’s living in 2014 because the university has pathetic and “serious gender issues.” The college doesn’t offer Women’s Studies courses or a student women’s center, but, she feels, “I do not feel the need of Women Studies courses here. That is just like agreeing that women are fragile and weaker and need special attention.” Female students have a curfew for their dormitory and are not allowed to leave the campus without a permit and accompanied by a family member, like a jail, but the males have free access. She noted that some of her male peers visit the red light district in Delhi as they have no one to keep a check on them. She feels the university mistreats and abuses male and female couples walking together; a visiting Vice Chancellor saw a few couples and promulgated rules against them. She and her boyfriend manage to leave campus separately and then meet to see a movie.

Saanvi said, “The worst thing is the girls themselves are very meek. No one wants to risk their degree or no one wants to work hard for their rights. Why? Because they have been brought up in male-dominant homes.” She wrote an anonymous letter to the Dean of Student Welfare about unequal treatment of girls, with no results. She’s afraid that “if the university administration finds out about my complaining nature, they might play with my future.”
When I was around 19, I began noticing these gender issues. Of course, there are issues like poverty and corruption and crime, which equally touch me, but the gender inequality has suffocated me, while awake, while dreaming, while bathing, while eating, while laughing. My boyfriend’s family is too lame to directly hurt me, but its lameness bothers me. I cannot tolerate dependent and household women who have no stand of their own, no boldness. His mother is one of those, and being indirectly connected to her bothered me a lot. Wearing the red mark on the forehead (a Hindu symbol of being a married woman), not taking care of her children well, not being aware of nutrition or her purpose in life, being kiddish, only cooking and cooking and household chores and still superficially pretending to be cool and cute.

In a very personal incident, I do not yet know why, my boyfriend broke the promises he made to me and went by her side. Since then, I have lost all my happiness, as if eternally. I am deeply grieved and am fighting for my confidence, my existence, my faith in myself. Due to all these personal experiences, my life seems to be revolving around gender issues and fight for self.


As to what makes her egalitarian and perceived as “weird,” I asked about her family:


Gayle, yes my family stands out. There is a complete equality and open mindedness, I’d say better than many families in Europe. I never figured this out about my family until I began realizing the nonsense prevailing around me. My boyfriend, who is almost as rational as me, has a disgusting lameness in his house regarding all this. This affected my relationship with him irreparably and immensely, and made me ask myself a thousand questions.
I was never exposed to constraining my wishes and ideas according to any gender issue, or follow customs or behave in a special way. I was only brought up as someone who can learn to live a good life. I must be the only student in my class of 89 students whose mother arranged for the summer training instead of fathers. Indian children already are influenced by their parents in things like which course to pursue, whether to do a job or study further. The girls, additionally, have to live within an invisible veil of codes of conduct. A very good looking and open-minded friend of mine from school recently stunned me when I asked her why her elder sister changed her surname upon marriage. She said, “The man takes on your responsibility. So we have to do this for him. I see nothing wrong in it.” Can you believe it? Her love for her boyfriend made her so senseless that she doesn’t see a wife taking any responsibility.


In comparison, Saanvi describes her boyfriend’s family who she says are typical in the woman gives up her identify for her husband, as when a relative of her boyfriend gave up her Christian religion to marry a Hindu and a physician gave up her career to marry his uncle. In his family,


The father is the head of the family, his surname is the family name, he earns, mother cooks (cooks even at midnight after a tiring seven-hour journey in traffic). She is dependent on her husband and even on her children to get sensible, since she did not struggle, she saw no ups and downs or hardships, so she’s kiddish. Other dependent women may not be so immature but just as dumb in their life and responsibilities.


A survey by Hansa Research titled “The Youth Vote,” interviewed 4107 people ages 18 to 25 in 16 cities in 2013.[78] It revealed Saanvi’s boyfriend family is much more typical than hers as traditional social attitudes and gender differences are common: Probably because they have more freedom of movement, young men are more likely to have done social service (34% to 27%) and pay a bribe, 20% to 11%. Not broken down by gender, what they think stops India from progress in this order: poverty, corruption, terrorism, caste (68% think caste matters to youth and 76% won’t marry outside their caste), and lack of empowerment for women. As to how to improve women’s lives, young people said men’s attitudes should change (52%), police should follow laws more strictly (51%), and better laws are needed (48%). Almost one-quarter think there’s too much emphasis on domestic violence (23%), while a third (31%) thinks there’s too little emphasis. A third feel home isn’t safe for women (34%), more so in Delhi (60%). More think women are unsafe in public places (71%) and in colleges and at work (59%). Over half of women think they have equal opportunities at work (51%): The South (67%) is more egalitarian than the North (45%).

Youth are traditional, saying they will have an arranged marriage (63%) and won’t marry outside their religion because: they believe in traditions (68%), would become an outcaste (14%), and they want to obey their parents (10%). More men would like a stay-at-home wife (48%), than a working wife (20%) or either (21%), so she can devote herself to family (60%) and home is the best place for women (37%). Women would more like to have a husband who works in an office (49%) than one who works from home (21%), or either (21%). Parents totally paid for their education for 79% of them. Only 13% say they would prefer to live with a partner (LTA) without marriage or are fine with either. Over half say LTAs are immoral or socially unacceptable. Over two-thirds (65%) would prefer a secure government job to a high-paid private job and 38% think they need the right connections to succeed. One-third would like to study abroad.

Pingapany Manorama, MD, founded and directs and NGO for the poor in Chennai called CHES. She emailed,


Women are surrounded by many evil things ….poverty, caste, religion discriminations, illiteracy, cultural taboos and tradition. She has to learn to live for others than for her self. Many women don’t know their rights, including those widowed and divorced. I was addressing nearly 600 women in a garment industry on the eve of International Women’s Day. As I was talking about the first movement, some were listening while others were talking among themselves or were running after their children as if it was not for them because they felt it is not related to them and they can’t do it.

I have seen miserable situations for women in my life:

A mother is unable to support her daughter who was raped by her father.

A mother unable to hold on to her disabled child.

A mom who goes for begging with her child and lives on that.

Grannies making her grandchild with limb deformity beg and wave at men for her living.

A woman journalist student who surrendered her baby born out of wedlock.

A woman obstetrician shouts at a woman in labour.

A policewoman supports the husband invariably in case of domestic violence.


Girls are low on the status ladder, illustrated in the film Maya, about a 12-year-old village girl who is raped by four village leaders, or the film Water about abused child widows in the time of Gandhi in the 1930s. In a survey of almost 6,000 Indian girls, nearly half said they wished they were boys. They reported abuse and neglect, and having to take care of siblings rather than study.[79] Although Gandhi is known as a liberator, he insisted that some of the teenage girls in his household, including his grandniece, sleep naked with him so he could test his commitment to celibacy.


Marriage Practices

Nearly 44% of girls in India between the ages of 15 and 19 are married. Dowry payments to the groom’s family by the bride’s parents are still common, burdening the girl’s family, and multi-day weddings are expected to be elaborate and expensive. A common saying is “A daughter is a burden,” leading to more boys born than girls. The minimum budget for a middle-class wedding ceremony is $34,000, report wedding planners (similar to the US).[80] The growing middle class may look western, but they keep family as the center. Unmarried daughters and sons usually live with their parents and sons usually bring their brides to live with his parents. In contrast, an Indian woman computer tech who works in the US reports, “Indians who have never traveled to US or lived here think that US is mostly about lack of family structure, divorces, rampant public display of affection and more.”[81]

Traditionally, dating is frowned upon because the parents arrange marriage for virgins. Some high schools in both India and China prohibit dating. A high school student wishes adults would change their “mentality that a boy and a girl can’t be just friends” (Danjana, 16, f). I was puzzled when I read this: “I think my girlfriend and my parents love me a lot when I am frank with them and kind too” (Akash, 15, m). I asked Krishna, 22, to explain the girlfriend reference:


Dating is NOT a concept in India. Kids are influenced mostly by mainstream media and of course, parents try to do their best to discourage their kids’ whims about dating, but all that is changing. Some schools have a policy of no dating, but most do not. India has never had the concept of dating. The guy must have a secret girlfriend, as is possible for any high school student anywhere in the world. Most youngsters these days prefer to fall in love first and then get married. The tradition has always been that sons live with their parents forever. Daughters are supposed to live at the husband’s place, so it is very common to see young adults living with parents after marriage. If a child is living away from his parents, people usually suspect something is wrong. If the son moves out after marriage, the blame usually goes to the new daughter-in-law.


Since dating is frowned upon as a risk to the girl’s reputation and virginity, the parents arrange most marriages. The movies Monsoon Wedding (2001), and My Faraway Bride (2006), show arranged marriages in wealthy urban families. Marriages are arranged with the help of technology in the form of matrimonial ads as seen on the largest sites.[82] The process is criticized in Hinduism Today, a magazine which states, “The younger generation are thinking for themselves, no longer relying on elders to advise. This is unfortunate, for now they will have to learn from their own mistakes. What a way to learn![83] The author advises very traditional roles, telling women to “Be to your husband like melted butter is on toast; it is absorbed.” In contrast, a modern view is a spoof on the 10 types of men a single woman is likely to meet in the process of an arranged marriage, including “mama’s boy,” the “over-eater,” and Mr. Cool.[84] An article in Youth Kiawaaz suggests that’s it’s immoral to spend so much money on dowry and wedding ceremony and suggests that couples share expenses.[85] A feminist TV ad for a coffee maker shows the families of two single people checking each other out. When the young woman is asked to make coffee, she brings out a coffee maker and says, “I am not a kitchen appliance.”[86]

In her home, I interviewed a young married woman with a young child in the small town of Anandpur Sahib (see photos). She wanted to be a Buddhist nun, but her father said no. She taught school for three years, but only earned 2-3,000 rupees a month (about $50). She met her fiancé for the first time at their engagement party in her home, where I visited. They cooperated after marriage, but she said it took two or three years to fall in love. One of their main challenges was his parents expected her to be a servant to cook and clean and complained, “Your mother didn’t teach you anything.” She said was a princess in her family and village. While her brothers did the cleaning and cooking, she did what she wanted. For her daughter, she wants her to have the freedom to marry who ever she wants, no matter what religion, and to be educated. She wishes she could travel and told me, “I envy your lifestyle.” She is trying to find a way to make money, took a computer course, is thinking about designing clothes, but hasn’t found her career path yet.

Hindi language films made in Bollywood and TV soap operas are very popular with youth (as is Bollywood music in the US), often portraying themes of romantic love with parents’ choice portrayed as the wisest. Close ties between newly weds may not be encouraged, as a strong bond is forged between a mother and her first-born son who raises his mother’s status. Films also address contemporary issues like working women and government corruption. A common theme in TV soap operas is the relationship of daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law living in the same home, the women working in the kitchen with full makeup and fashionable saris. Reality shows are also popular; for example, filming 15 people isolated in a house for three months or a bachelor show where women compete to be selected by the bachelor. Banerji comments on TV portrayal of women:


         Here is an interesting article on why women characters must be traditional on TV–taking hardship and abuse subserviently. [87] It says, “The makers of these serials say TV gives as good as it gets–women are usually appreciated by audiences as subservient, overtly loyal and moralistic or evil, conniving and home-breaking characters. Television cannot be about superwomen. It has to be about the average Indian women; otherwise it will lack identification,” Ekta Kapoor, the creator of India’s most wanted ‘bahus’ [young daughter-in-laws are a popular soap opera story] Tulsi and Parvati, told IANS.


The chaste devoted wife is not the only model of women’s role: Traditionally women from the Nair caste in Kerala lived in their mother’s home and had multiple sexual partners with rights over their children. To learn more about a Southern Indian perspective, I asked Puja Kanth Alfred to comment. She’s from the north but lives in the south in Chennai where she’s a therapist.


The section is very detailed and insightful. However it gives an overview of culture of mostly North India and not Southern part of India. If the differences are not explored and included, it will give a picture of only HALF of India. There is a South and North India divide with Inherent differences in culture, traditions, and languages. To some extent the southern part especially is still exempt from the cultural erosion. The TV soap operas here are more family oriented and they are not influenced by Bollywood (the Hindi film industry). Kollywood is the southern film industry. The soap operas that have been mentioned are only the North Indian Hindi soap operas. The series in Tamil and other southern languages are different.

The South is culturally richer than North. Therefore more details about South need to be included. Since I’m from North and living in South, I have seen the cultural differences. Tamil is the oldest living classical language and Tamils are the second son of Lord Shiva, Lord Murga. Hindi is the not the national language it is only an official language.


Alfred explained similar attitudes towards family in both regions:


In Indian culture, parents are looked after even after a son gets married. This is because parents look after their kids till they complete college. And even after their marriages many parents support their children with money, land etc. In India children rarely start working before the age of 25 in contrast to west where children start earning their pocket money at a very young age.

The concept of dowry was initially started with the intention to provide for the daughter at the time of marriage so that she had a handsome amount to start her life with. However, slowly it took another form and led to dowry deaths, etc. Like many traditions that started with good intention and became corrupted, this tradition too became corrupted.


When the new couple is ready to be parents, a boy baby is preferred. Gender selection and selective abortion were banned in India in 1994 but illegal ultrasound tests continue, especially in northern India. Girls are given names such as Nakusa, which means unwanted. In response, a central Indian district organized a renaming ceremony with names the girls selected themselves, like Asmita that means very tough, or the names of goddesses and Bollywood stars.) In 2007 the Mumbai government set up cradles around the country for families to anonymously drop off unwanted girl babies and it runs TV ads and billboards saying, “Girls Bring Happiness at Home.” A program where daughters are registered at birth, are enrolled in school, and marriage delayed, gives families 100,000 rupees when the girl reaches 18.

In Sex and Power, Banerji analyzes the horrifying treatment of women, which fits the definition of genocide: abortion of girls, female infanticide, child brides (about 65% of girls marry before the legal age of 18), dowry murders (an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 yearly[88]), polyandry where a girl is married to brothers–increasing in areas with a shortage of girls, gang rapes, honor killings, and neglect of girls’ health and education. A proverb says raising a daughter is like watering a plant in your neighbor’s yard. A girl is an outsider both in her family of origin and her husband’s family. Banerji reported these cruel practices resulted in the elimination of around 50 million females. The 2011 census revealed the problem got worse: the gender ratio for children six and under is 914 girls for every 1,000 boys, the lowest ratio since independence, down from 927 girls in the last census.[89] Banerji points out that missing women phenomenon carries over to Indian communities in other countries.

A mother commented on the dowry death of her daughter on Banerji’s 50 Million Missing campaign website:


I have lost my 24-year, well-educated daughter Anshu Singh, in North East Delhi. She faced dowry death on January 2010 just after 45 days of her marriage. I have great concerns about my rest two daughters. I am in fear how to save them from this cruel world of making crimes on girls. My family is in great trauma since two months. The police are not taking pain to catch the culprits.[90]


Rita Banerji gives examples of other cases she’s working on:


                       A dowry related case that we dealt with in the 50MM campaign involved the murder of a young, highly educated woman who was working for multinational company.  When her in-laws and husband continued to press for more and more money even after the marriage, she began to take out large loans through her company to give them that money. She was killed 45 days after the wedding.

Another case we had–where this young woman doctor, whose husband was also a doctor, was being harassed by her husband and in-laws to abort her twin girls. She was not only a professional but came from a wealthy, upper class, well-educated family.  She did get out, but last year she was trying to return to her husband and in-laws’ house because she told me, “The children must have a father.”  When her baby was six-months-old the mother-in-law tried to kill her by kicking her down the stairs. She was saved because she was strapped to her cradle. So I asked the mother–how can you think of something like this?  She was financially able and the children were safe and happy. She basically told me, “In our society the children must have a father and we must learn to forgive.” You may want to read the “Democratic” or modern section that I cover in my book Sex and Power: Defining History, Shaping Societies.


Domestic violence is common, including “bride burning” in “kitchen fires” when families are unhappy with the dowry payment and want to try for more money with a new bride. (Why would any family allow their daughter to marry in to such a family?) Thousands of poor girls are forced into prostitution each year.[91] The government estimates there are three million sex workers in India and at least 40% of them are children. Mumbai has the most sex workers, as illustrated in the film Slumdog Millionaire (2008). Kolkata’s red light district was filmed by children of prostitutes in Born into Brothels (2009). In an article young widow explains how she became a sex worker and an educator about safe sex and human rights.[92] Journalist Ruchira Gupta, who couldn’t stand writing about young girls taken from poor villages to city brothels without taking action, co-founded Apne Aap (self-empowerment) with 22 prostitutes in 2002.[93] They created centers in large cities where women could escape and find schools for their children. Gupta pointed out that sexualized violence targets gays, Dalits, and religious minorities. The Indian government reported the country has about three million prostitutes, about 40% of them under age 18. Because of widespread AIDS among sex workers, men seek out younger girls.

Banerji explains that, “thousands of women who live in horribly abusive violent marriages in India would like to get out. Divorce, just like marriage, is a family/community decision–not an individual choice. If they got out, they would face excommunication.” The divorce rate is among the lowest in the world because it’s socially unacceptable, a stigma like it used to be in the US.[94] However, it’s rising among young urban love marriages.

Girls and boys are not supposed to interact, due to the religiosity of conservative people. Yet at the same time it’s become acceptable for girls to show flesh in beauty pageants, films, and modeling. Banerji believes, “Female genocide in India is the psychopathic fallout of the socialized dichotomy of men and women and sex and the sacred, and the inability of Indian society to overcome this schizophrenic vision.”[95] The future is bleak, she believes, because of widespread illiteracy and politicians cater to the majority of religious conservatives to get their votes. A post on Youth Kiawaaz: Mouthpiece for the Youth, praises traditional celebration of sex and blames western influences for negative attitudes towards sex.[96] The article shows temple carvings of a group of people engaged in very explicit and varied sexual activity.

Her campaign to bring female genocide to public outrage is explained on her website, including a petition to sign. Despite these tragedies, Banerji reports difficulty in finding young activists to join her campaign:


I find for some reason young Indian women unwilling to be an active and vocal participant in the 50 Million Missing Campaign. They’ve written often anonymously, often harping for some strange reason excessively on gay rights but not addressing things they need to that are happening here — like dowry violence (which is worst in the middle and upper classes, low child sex ratio which again is worst in the middle and upper classes).  My young volunteers are western women. Indians are not in the habit of volunteering unless they earn money (which is a contradiction of terms) but they spend hours on the net exchanging stupid comments on movies, posters, and rubbish! I feel quite fed up trying to get Indian women to open up.



Teens of both sexes speak up against harassment of women. Reeni, a 17-year old girl stated, “I want my country to ensure greater safety for women in India. Women should be able to travel and work on their own without worrying about their security. They should get respect and be treated as equals at their workplaces or even while walking on the road or sitting in a bus.”[97] A male student, Deepak, 18, said he’d like to do away with “self-immolation,” which still is sometimes performed by widows to join the dead husband on his funeral pyre and he also mentions the problem of slavery.

The main question is why India lacks a national feminist movement, despite the emphasis on equality in the Gandhian revolution and the socialist government that followed under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Garima, a high school girl reports,


Women’s liberation is a myth, considering the worsened condition of the fairer sex in the social setup. Though women have increased their contact with the outer world, have reached the pinnacle of success and are now at par with men in all fields, inside the homes, it is the same old story. It is women who carry out all the household. Men are not bothered at all about the extra load that women carry. Moreover, crimes against women refuse to subside. Rape, harassment, dowry, infanticide–the females have to bear it all. To add to this, the society still feels that ladies are inferior to men; it is still male-dominated society. [98]


Authorities generally say it’s a patriarchal nation, as when police officers are asked why rapists aren’t punished. A young sexual assault survivor said, “Every woman that I have spoken to, whether they were survivors or not, has had the same angst, the same intolerance and more importantly, the same disgust at the state of women’s affairs in India. I think it is this shared frustration that will push for greater social changes in India.”[99] She thinks the government will have to move from inaction to action.

Everyone I interviewed in North India in 2012 said there was no active national feminist movement, such as a law student seen on video (and an interview with a young physician and her younger brother medical student).[100] A film Unlimited Girls (2002) by Paromita Vora interviews older feminists and younger urban women searching to define their own views.[101] Vora’s impression is, “The older feminists have a more defined relationship with feminism. . . . A lot of younger women haven’t really made the effort to examine and learn about the history of feminist thinking and actions and so they are much less sure—they have come into it automatically and not given it much thought….” She would like to see them develop new ideas to build the movement.

Since Rita Banerji is a “gender activist” in Kolkata and writes about women’s issues, I asked her if I was missing feminist activity. She emailed,


I am also struggling to find Indian feminists in India! Feminists aren’t loud and vocal and there is no national across the board women’s movement in India. I’ve given up asking about Indian feminists. When I did, I found them very hostile to my writings, my opinions. Very defensive. So I stopped asking. When I wrote the paper ‘Why Kali Won’t Rage’ it was just closing that chapter.[102] In there I wrote what I have seen and understood of the feminist movement.


In her paper Banerji charges that despite ongoing assaults on females, Indian women express “disapproval of western feminist anger” and its emphasis on the harmful effects of patriarchy. Indians are raised to accept a gender hierarchy where women are expected to be “domestic” or “homely,” meaning compliant, despite a countervailing tradition of female goddesses as powerful shakti forces. A Delhi teacher, Rajni explained, “Do you know that in India we worship the male organ (lingam…Shiva)? It is to be found in all the temples as the reigning deity.  As young girls you worship it without knowing; as a grown up you know but still do it as it is a symbol of all kinds of fertility and prosperity.” I replied, there’s also the yoni, symbol of female fertility. She said she’d never seen a yoni (but I saw them in temples) “so it can’t be that popular.”

A consequence of lack of Indian feminist protest and organizing is women only hold about 10% of Parliamentary seats, India ranks a low 112 out of 134 countries on a Global Gender Gap report, has one of the lowest female literacy rates in the world and one-third of the child brides. More bride murders occur in India than honor killings occur in Muslim countries. The problem also exists among Indians in the diaspora, as in Canada where Soraya Mullah is working to raise awareness about violence against Indian girls and women. Banerji recommends the documentary about gendercide titled It’s a Girl, filmed in India and China (2012).

Indian girls that I interviewed agreed with Banerji that feminism is mute and women are blamed, but the hopeful note is they understand the reality of sexism: “Girls every minute are grabbed in the jaws of rapes, abuses, violence and are yet deprived of their rights snatched by the backward society. This is one of the issues that have made India a developing and not developed country” (Manmehak, 17, f, India).

However authors of a blog titled “Young Feminists on Life in Contemporary India” disagree: A popular essay explains that,


Indian feminism– yes, there is such a thing–is a complex, multifaceted animal that is not a replica of the west but one born of a unique context. It encompasses many women and a reasonably large number of men who often disagree vociferously with each other in person and in print. This Indian feminism defies definition. It struggles not just with concerns of gender but also with those of class, caste and religion.[103]


From Tamil Nadu, Pingapany Manorama, MD, founder of an NGO for the poor, emailed, “Women in a group forget their mission and start discussing other matters, jewels, sari, etc. The educated never turn to illiterate to educate; they move forward to seek high placed jobs as instructed by their family. The poor and illiterate struggle the most and when successful become real leaders; does that mean only if a women struggles she can become a leader??!!!”

India’s women’s movement dates back to reform movements in the 19th century, the struggle for freedom from British rule, and left and labor political activism. Many autonomous urban feminist groups of well-educated women formed in the 1970s were galvanized by high profile rape cases, dowry deaths (the bride is killed so her husband can get another dowry), sati (the widow joins her husband on the funeral pyre), and gang rapes. Government legislation outlawed dowry in 1961 and added sections to the Penal Code to permits the groom and his family to be jailed if the bride complains about mistreatment. Some men say women misuse the law to punish men, although I haven’t heard of any grooms being set on fire.

The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is the largest women’s union in the world. Sla Bhatt founded by in 1972 to assist women who sold single cigarettes on the street, or straightened old nails to sell them, or worked by themselves on small farms.[104] Bhatt created nurseries for their children, and micro-credit groups foreshadowing later implemented by Muhammad Yunnus who won a Nobel Prize for them. SEWA has almost two million members in India and has spread to other countries in South Asia, Africa, Turkey and Russia. The Center for Women’s Development Studies also assists women living in poverty. Women are active in campaigns against price rises, for land rights, environmental protection, etc.

Worried about increased political activism, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a State of Emergency in 1975 to stop all such activity, which lasted for 18 months, followed by renewed feminist activity in street protests and national campaigns into the early 1980s. Feminism during the two decades from the mid-1970s to the 1990s were “optimistic, energetic and hugely innovative,” according to a second wave feminist leader and publisher, Ritu Menon.[105] She says that, as in the West, the personal was made political, voicing opposition to domestic violence, rape, etc. Her book Making a Difference collected memoirs of second wave leaders, founders of many organizations to provide women with shelter and information, including Shaeli and Vimochana. Activism centered on women’s heath remains important, including female infanticide.

In the 2000s, the lack of a visible movement led to judgments that the women’s movement was over or that the activists were urban, middle class, and influenced by the West so they didn’t represent the poor rural women. Although there isn’t a “single cohesive movement,” but many local movements, some see this as a strength.[106] Poor and low-caste women led campaigns such as anti-alcohol in Andhra Pradesh or environmentalism in the northern hill regions. In rural areas in Himachal Pradesh, Jagori Grameen teaches women farmers how to do organic processes to replenish their soil. Poor women wage campaigns against alcohol abuse with its links to domestic violence. Dalit women, sex workers, domestic workers and other groups wage campaigns for better working conditions. Dalit women organized supportive organizations such as the All India Dalit Women’s Forum and National Federation of Dalit Women. The socialist All India Democratic Women’s Association opposed neoliberal economics and the rise of caste violence against Dalit women and Muslims, and beginning in the late 1980s, focused on rural Indian women.[107] They grew from about three million members to over 10 million members during the rise of neoliberalism, 1991 to 2006.

Social worker Medha Patkar founded the National Alliance of People’s Movements to work for social justice in India. She supported Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign and protested demolition of slum dwellers’ homes. Famous women actors known for their social activism include Shabana Azmi (born 1950) who advocates for AIDS patients, slum dwellers and against religious extremism. Author Suzanna Arundhati Roy (born 1961) fights for environmental causes such as against dam construction, against neo-imperialism led by US businesses, and for Kashmir’s independence. An NGO called Committee of Resource Organizations joined with other NGOs to produce a manual to empower young women’s leadership around young women’s issues such as safety, sexuality, health, and motherhood.[108]

The first women’s studies research center was established in 1974 in Mumbai, which was also the site of the first National Conference on Women’s Studies in 1981. Women’s Studies centers were set up in 33 universities as a result of a 1975 government report “Towards Equality.” It found that despite two decades of planned development, women lagged behind men. An Indian Association for Women’s Studies formed in 1982 with participation from activists, and alliances formed with other feminists in the five countries in the South Asian region. Menon reports an active link between activists and academics and that feminist methodologies have influenced other academics, but “full academic recognition eludes women’s studies.”[109]

Manushi, a feminist journal to bridge activism and research, began in 1978. Other English language journals founded in the same era include Feminist Network. A publishing house called Kali [a goddess] For Women was co-founded by Menon in 1984. As a result of her feminism, she lost friends and family, but is appreciative of her feminist husband.[110] In Hyderabad, the Progressive Women’s Organization, based at Osmania University, was galvanized by price increases, need for jobs, dowry abuses, eve teasing, sexism in advertising, and safety of women students. Other NGOs addressed women’s issues, sparked by the UN decade for women from 1975 to 1985. A National Alliance of Women formed after the UN conference on women in Beijing, 1995.[111] Many women’s organizations criticized the government’s National Perspective Plan for Women of 1988 for not addressing root problems.

Feminists India, “an online platform for all those who are committed to gender equality and justice,” was founded in 2012.[112] Women’s Voice posts events, news, jobs, comments on legal issues, etc. A problem for some Indians is negative connotations of the word feminist associated with Western bra burning (it happened once at a Miss America contest) and man-hating.[113] Academic Madhu Kishwar doesn’t call herself a feminist because “of its overclose association with the Western women’s movement,” although she says “a primary motive in my life is working for women’s equality and freedom in all areas of life.”[114] I call that feminism.

Menon wrote in 2012, that the exhilarating 1980s to 1990s were about consciousness raising, while the 2000s are about creating changes in laws and in society.[115] Violence against women remains a major theme of the women’s movement, but in such a large country there cannot be a single movement. Menon explained, “To all those who feel the women’s movement in India is on the wane, perhaps a more accurate assessment is that it is more dispersed, has deeper root, and has shifted from being urban and middle class to more hinterland, and often, even more rural.” The 1993 requirement that one third of the representatives of local councils called panchayats led women’s groups to provide hundreds of trainings for the over one million new women leaders. A bill to require the same representation for parliament hasn’t passed.


Sampat Pal’s Pink Sari Gang

In India, where 70% of the people live in the countryside, uneducated women are expected to obey their fathers and then their husbands, but some rebel against violence and injustice. When Sampat Pal (born 1960) was a little girl in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Her parents wouldn’t let her go to school, so she wrote the alphabet on village walls and floors. She learned from her brothers and then an uncle sent her to school, but her parents removed her when she was 12 to marry a man 13 years older. A year later she had the first of her five children. When she was 16 she organized other women to intervene with bamboo sticks to stop a man who regularly beat his wife. At 18, she started meeting with local organizations to work on women’s health issues and fight against child marriage, dowry abuse, and domestic violence. Her husband didn’t like her speaking with men but, “He supports me now,” she said. She reported, “There used to be a pervasive feeling of helplessness, a collective belief that fighting back is just not possible, but that is slowly changing.”[116] She said her purpose is to unite women and she advises women to find ten other women to join together. The previous endnote includes videos about her.

Pal organized the Gulabi (Pink) Sari Gang in 2006 to help victims of domestic violence. Dalit women are especially vulnerable to violence, a status likened to apartheid.[117] She told her gang, “To face down men in this part of the world, you have to use force. We function in a man’s world where men make all the rules. Our fight is against injustice.” The group started with a few women and spread to villages throughout Uttar Pradesh. The women use clubs and bamboo batons to intimidate wife beaters, rapists, and corrupt government officials. One of the members whose husband used to beat her reported he stopped when she joined the gang; “I learned that the more you suffer silently, the more your oppressor will oppress you.”

When a landlord raped a teenage girl, he paid the police not to investigate, a common practice. The Pink Gang called the police chief and he got on the case. In 2008 the group discovered that a government shop that was supposed to give free grain to the poor was selling it instead. The pink-clad women stopped the trucks carrying grain to the illegal market by deflating the tires and taking the drivers’ keys. They pressured government officials to get the grain to the poor. Pal also teaches women job skills such as weaving plates from leaves and sewing. The gang had over 20,000 members by 2008.

Rita Banerji emailed about the Gulabi Gang;


Gulabi Gang was really propped up by the western media. You really think those women are using sticks to protect women? When families can’t give more dowries, and the inlaws throw the young women out, the Gulabi Gang goes and yells and stomps in front of the house ‘shaming’ them to ‘take’ the woman back. Women don’t just go through physical and emotional abuse but also sexual abuse for dowry, which is never talked about. We want women to get out before they get killed. It upsets me that the western media has portrayed the Gulabi Gang as unique kind of Indian solution to violence. Push them back in the house and hope they won’t get killed–never mind they’ll be abused in other ways.


In another pink protest, when Hindu activists criticized a movie star for living with a man without being married and filed criminal suits against her for leading young people astray, the incident outraged thousands of Indian women. They responded in 2010 by collecting pairs of pink panties and sending them to the Hindu organization behind the attack, similar to underwear campaigns against the Burmese junta and Kenyan police who didn’t punish gang rapists.


Recent Feminist Actions

Young women organize Slut Walks, organize for safety for women and against corruption. They march with environmentalists, workers and GLBT activists. Groups like Saheli, Sakshi, Jagori and Action India continue the struggle for safety and equality. Jagori created a Google Group because their resource center believes in “dispersal of feminist ideology throughout society” to create a just society.[118] Men’s groups like Men Against Women Abuse are active. Feminist groups on Facebook include “Voices of Indian Women,” “India Feminist Hub, and “Feminist India.”[119] The male founder of the latter states, women’s “need for protection and emotional care by the men does not make them in anyway inferior to men. It is very natural in a male dominated half-civilized society.”

The best known recent feminist action, large protests by thousands of women and men occurred in response to the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in December 2012. She was coming home on a bus from watching the film Life of Pi with a male friend when she was violently assaulted by the bus driver and five of his friends with metal rods, thrown off the bus naked and bleeding. She died later of her internal injuries. Large demonstrations occurred in cities all over India and spread to neighboring countries to highlight widespread harassment of women and lack of police protection for women and girls or punishment of rapists. The movement’s slogan is Bekhauf Azaadi, fearless freedom

Rapes continued albeit with occasional more severe punishments as for the four adult rapists sentenced to hanging. Feminist Ruchira Gupta said she was “excited about the new wave of feminism that hit the streets after the December gang rape.”[120] Laws passed the next year established six new courts to hear rape cases and imposed stricter punishments, as well as making stalking, voyeurism, trafficking and acid attacks criminal acts. Prison terms for rapists were increased to 20 years but official statistics say about 25,000 rapes occur each year. Activists say the actual number is much higher as women fear reporting rape to police.

Reports of rape doubled in New Delhi and thousands of violence against women cases were pending in courts. However, a young woman protester reported at a memorial a year later, “A welcome change is that the taboo on discussion of rape and sexual violence has been broken, but absolutely no change in the rape culture and related brutality.”[121] She said the law is “impotent in the face of existing patriarchy” and the streets are not safe, nor are some homes. The recommendations of the Justice Verma Commission were gutted.

Not trusting authorities to take action, Indian women formed small support groups. A New Delhi group called “Local Support 101” leads weekly marches to educate people about how to stop violence. For example, one of their members, age 29, was assaulted by two young men while she was in a supermarket. They groped her breasts and pelvic area and asked her for sex. Although she screamed, no one in the market came to help her. Luckily, the guys ran away. Rape continues, as in 2014 when tribal elders in West Bengal ordered 13 men to rape a 20-year-old woman as punishment for friendship with a non-tribal man, a seven-year-old girl was raped by her teacher, and some state legislators were charged with rape.[122] (Rape is a global problem, as nearly 22 million American women (1 in 5) and 1.6 million men have been raped, according to White House Council on Women and Girls report in 2014. One in ten men said they forced sex on a woman who wasn’t their partner in a survey of men in six Asian countries, not including India.[123])

Some groups of poor men who feel they have noting to lose by treating gang rape as a sport. I mentioned this to Banerji who corrected this focus on the poor as the problem:


Rape is across all classes. Within homes–middle class, educated homes, in the big, exotic joint families women are gang-raped by brothers-in-law and other men. Police gang rape women who come in to complain in stations about crime! A few weeks ago a senior policeman got 1 year in prison for gang rape! These women are even more silent than poorer women, including colleges, universities. A few months ago a university student was talking about how his female friend was forced to have sex with all her boyfriend’s male friends. I told him that is not sex! That is rape! And did she report it? He said, yes, but the university expelled her and all the men. Why? Because the principal said that you can clap only with two hands. This is the educated upper class strata!


When reporters asked the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh about the gang rape and death of two cousins who had gone into the fields to relieve themselves, he said, “What’s it to you? Aren’t you safe?”[124] The father of one of the teenagers said police wouldn’t help him find his missing daughter because he is from a lower caste. Police used water cannons to disperse hundreds of women protesting gang rapes and police inaction in Uttar Pradesh in June 2014. Nasreen Janhan fights for tougher laws against acid attacks on women; her ex-husband threw acid on her face six months after their divorce, but isn’t hopeful about change. She’s included in a video that shows women’s rights activists in 2014 complaining that the “government hasn’t done anything” and the cultural norms haven’t changed.[125] As one politician said, “Boys will be boys.”

In cities, in addition to demanding that eve teasing be treated as a crime, feminists work with the police and planning groups in Safe City campaigns. Akshara, a women’s resource center in Mumbai, reached out to young people in 18 low-income colleges on gender issues. They created a Blow the Whistle Campaign to set up a police helpline to protect women, children and the elderly. Boys are involved as well as girls. Dalit filmmaker and singer Thenmozhi Soundararajan co-founded the international women’s media technology collective called Third World Majority, based in Oakland, California.[126] She points out that rape and other violence against women target Dalit women, as a way for higher castes to intimidate lower castes.[127]

Another well-publicized gang rape of two young cousins (ages 12 and 14) in Ultra Pradesh who were hung from a mango tree were part of that lower caste dynamic. The girls were in a lower caste than their murders although both are designated lower castes. Soundararajan reported that it’s new to treat rape as a heinous crime because caste “is an insidious system that traps over 200 million people.” She said there are two Indias, one with a rule of law for upper castes and the wealthy, and another India without law, especially for Dalits.

In a 2014 book tour with Gloria Steinem, Gupta said young women who attended their talks wanted to discuss sexual harassment at work, how to delay marriage, how to defend the new laws against sexual assault, and how to convince editors to include women’s viewpoints. A young man talked about being jeered at by friends and family for taking a women’s studies course at his university. Some young people attended wearing white caps are members of Aam Admi, the Common Man. Gupta compares it to the “electoral version of the Occupy Movement.”

Young Indian girls in the news include Rashni Anand, 25, who founded an NGO called Lakshyam for some of the 100,000 street children in Delhi.[128] It expanded to six states. In 2013, she was honored as the “Social Entrepreneur of the Year.” She is one of many young women who started NGOs to help urban slum children. Although few took her efforts seriously, her role model was her mother, who founded an NGO called Lakshya for tribal women. As a child Anand went with her mother to rural and tribal villages. At age 18 she became a board member for her mother’s NGO. Anand collected toys in Delhi schools to give away over 60,000 toys and books to poor children and founded an orphanage and a school in a slum area, with the support of her family and friends.                                  India’s contrast with Gandhian liberation and equality for all castes, patriarchal traditions of restrictions on women and Dalits, and economic changes moving young women into the workplace and out of the home make for fascinating observation and study. Young Indian activists are motivated by anger about government corruption and violence against women, including frequent gang rapes. India is often compared with China, the focus of the next chapter, along with Russia. Some wonder if democracy can solve India’s poverty in the way that Chinese Communist Party rule brought improvement.


Discussion Questions and Activities

  1. Why does traditional sexism and poverty maintain such a strong hold despite a tradition of powerful goddesses, perhaps stronger than in China (discussed in the next chapter?)
  2. Discuss hybrid youth culture blending tradition and Western influences.
  3. What issues motivate recent feminist organizing?
  4. What role did youth play in the 2014 national elections?





Comment on films about poverty:

Born in Brothels. It follows the stories of several children growing up in the red-light district of Calcutta, and the impact made on them when they are given cameras to record their daily lives. 2004

Slumdog Millionaire. A slum boy ends up on a quiz show and his friends as they grow up. 2008

Water. About exploitation of child widows abandoned by their families in India during the time of Gandhi in the 1930s. 2005 the same writer/director made Fire (1996) and Earth (1998). A book describing the challenges making Water is titled Shooting Water by the director’s daughter.


Compare with middle-class urban families:

Like Stars on Earth. A Mumbai family lives the modern dream with a successful businessman, a stay-at-home wife who gave up her career to care for her two sons. They don’t realize their youngest son fails in school because he is dyslexic and send him off to boarding school where his art teacher names his learning disability. 2007

Outsourced. An unexceptional American film about an American man who is sent to manage Indian workers in a call center near Mumbai. He learns about the importance of time with family and other Indian traditions. 2006


What Indian traditions survive for immigrants to the West?

Bend it Like Beckham. An 18-year-old Punjabi Sheik girl is a good soccer player, but her parents don’t think its proper for an Indian girl to run around in shorts, even though they live in London, but she persists. 2002

Namesake. After an arranged marriage in Calcutta, the couple comes to New York for his work. The film is about their son’s attempts to integrate Indian and American culture. 2007



[2] 1 China 1,321,851,888

2 India 1,129,866,154

3 United States 301,139,947

4 Indonesia 234,693,997

5 Brazil 190,010,647

6 Pakistan 164,741,924

7 Bangladesh 150,448,339

8 Russia 141,377,752

9 Nigeria 135,031,164

10 Japan 127,433,494

[3] S. Sharma & N. Singh, “In 10 Years, Urban Indian Women’s Average Income Doubles,” Times of India, July 26, 2011.

[4] Shreena Thakore, “18 Chilling Stories of Everyday Sexism in India,” Youth Kiawaaz, October 3, 2014.

[5] “India’s New Voters,” The Economist, April 5, 2014.

[6] Ellen Barry, “Defying Expectations in India, Modi Begins Key Trip to U.S.,” New York Times, September 25, 2014.


[8][8] Ritty Lukose. Liberalization’s Children: Gender, Youth, and Consumer Citizenship in Globalizing India. Duke University Press, 2009, p. 195.


[10] Ira Trivedi, “Love Me Do,” Outlook India, February 24, 2014.

[11] Bahrain Mukherjee. Miss New India. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011, p. 258.

[12] Ibid, p. 24.

[13] Ibid, p. 101.

[14] Ibid, p. 306.

[15] Liat Clark, “Suicide is Number One Cause of Death Among Young Women in India,”, March 27, 2013.

[16] Chetan Bhagat. Five Point Someone. Rupa & Co., 2004

Chetan Bhagat. Five Point Someone. Rupa & Co., 2004, pp. 44, 37

Cehtan Bhagat. What Young India Wants. Rupa & Co, 2012, p. 110, 103.

[17] Annie Zaidi and Smriti Ravindra. The Bad Boy’s Guide to the Good Indian Girl. Zubaan, 2011.


[19] Pete Engardio, Businessweek, October 3, 2005.

[20] Advaita Kala. Almost Single. Bantam India, 2009, p. 5 and p. 268.


[22] Damayanti Datta, “Secret Life of Indian Teens,” India Today, February 25, 2011

[23] Indian young people discuss dowry and women’s

[24] “India’s Battle Against Hunger,” Poverty Matters Blog, The Guardian, Aril 8, 2011.


[26] Shelley Seale. The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India. Dog’s Eye View Media, 2009.



[29] Don Tapscott. Grown Up Digital. McGrawHill, 2009, p. 165.

[30] Katie Baker, “Female Indian Grads Aren’t Necessarily Keen on Working,” Jezebel, May 9, 2012

[31] Tim Sullivan, “Brutal Practice of Widow Burning Persists,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 10, 2006, p. A37


[33] Seema Jayachandran and Rohini Pande, “The Youngest are Hungriest,” New York Times, August 8, 2014.

[34] Sisterhood is Global Institute Global Stats: India


[36] P. 88


[38] A. Bhuyan, “Indian Diaspora: The Bridge That Links India to the World,” 2006.

[39] San Francisco Chronicle, February 15, 2009, p. H. 3





[44] Indian Youth in a Transforming World. Peter deSouza, Sanjay Kumar, Sandeep Shastri, editors. Sage, 2009, p. xvii.

[45] Rick Gladstone and Somini Sengupta, “Despite Declines, Child Mortality and Hunger Persist in Developing Nations, U.N. Reports,” New York Times, September 16, 2014.

[46] Ishita Moitra, “Zippies: What They Want, Outlook, January 12, 2004.

[47] /

[48] “India’s Corruption Scandals,” BBC News South Asia, March 17, 2011.

[49] Chetan Bhagat, “Anna Hazare’s Fight for Change has Inspired Millions of Indians,”, August 17, 2011.



[52] Ellen Barry, “Hopes of a Generation Ride on Indian Vote,” New York Times, May 15, 2014. Includes photos and videos.

[53] “The Opposition Does Not Respect Women,” Indian Express, May 17, 2014.

[54] Meghana Rathore, “6 out of 24 Ministers in Modi’s Cabinet,” Youth Kiawaaz, June 3, 2014.

[55] Somini Sengupta, “Shadows of Violence Cling to Indian Politician,” New York Times, April 28, 2009.

[56] Vikas Prakash Joshi, The World’s Youngest Democracy,” Economic Reform, March 7, 2012

[57] Nilanjana Bhowmick, “In India, 150 Million People Will be Voting for the First Time This year, TIME, April 18, 2014.


[59] Srinivasan Ramasamy, “India’s Youth Bulge,” Virtualvastra, April 18, 2014.

[60] This is the source for the rest of the paragraph. Amab Neil Sengupta, “Indian aspirations Set for Reality Check,” Aljazeera, May 16, 2014.


[62] “Rapes are a Big Shame, Discipline Your Sons,” The Times of India, August 16, 2014.

[63] Amrita Garg, “The Massive Irony of ABVP’s Campaign Against Live-in Relationships and Love Jihad to ‘Respect Women,’” Youth, October 14, 2014.

[64] An Australian camera woman describes the conflict in Varanasi that shut down production and the continued existence of widow houses.

[65] “Youth in India: Situation and Needs,” Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 2006-2007.

Click to access India%20Report.pdf

[66] Ramachandra Guha, “A Nation Consumed By the State,” Outlook India magazine, January 31, 2011.


[68] William Dalrymple. Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India. Alfred A. Knopf, 2010, pp. 35 and 100.

[69] André Béteille. Anti-Utopia. Oxford University Press, 2005, Chapter 10.

[70] Ibid, pp. 192-193.

[71] Sujit Raman, “Caste in Stone: Consequences of India’s Affirmative Action Policies,” Harvard International Review, May 6, 2006.

[72] Lukose, Op.Cit., p. 192.


[74] Ibid, p. 67.

[75] Ibid, p. 1.

[76] Ibid, p. 85.

[77] “Youth in India,” Population Council,


[79] National Study on Child Abuse, 2007. p. 26





October, 2010. Also traditional is Kavita Ramdya’s Bollywood Weddings: Dating, Engagement, and Marriage in Hindu America. Lexington Books, 2010.

[84] Rati Agrawl, “10 Men You’re Likely to Meet When You Opt for an Arranged Marriage,” The Times of India, May 23, 2014.

[85] Elisha Mittal, “How Arranged Marriages Push Our ‘Great Indian Morals’ to the Backseat,” Youth Kiawaaz, April 24, 2014.

[86] 2014,


[88] Banerji, p. 306. A 2004 estimate by Amnesty International was 15,000 while independent surveys report 25,000.

Banerji’s summary of violence against women in India:


She explains how the girls are killed on her blog.


[91] Katherine Sayre, “Sexual Slavery Taints India’s Rapid Growth,” Associated Press,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 7, 2007.

[92] Nishita Jha, “If I am Bad,”, February 23, 2013.

[93] Ruchira Gupta, “In Jaipur, New Feminists are Born,” New York Times, February 6, 2014.

[94] “Why Divorce Rate is Low in India,” GlobIndian, January 9, 2013.

[95] Banerji, p. 319.

[96] Dhruv Arora, “Does Indian Culture Really Want You to Stop Having Sex?,” Youth Kiawaaz, June 25, 2014.

[97] Outlook Magazine, January 12, 2004


[99] Pritika Gupta, “This is why Our Response to Rape Matters,” Youth Kiawaaz, June 23, 2014.


[101] “Unlimited Girls,” Infochange Film Forum,

[102] 2012

[103] Shilpa Phadke, “Indian Feminism 101,” Ultra Violet, October 8, 2008.


[105] Ritu Menon, ed. Making a Difference: Memoirs for the Women’s Movement in India. Women Unlimited, New Delhi, 2011, p. xii.

[106] “Urvashi Butalia, “The Women’s Movement in India: Action and Reflection,” Third World Network, 1998.

[107] Elizabeth Armstrong. Gender and Neoliberalism: The All India Democratic Women’s Association and Globalization Politics. Routledge, 2013.

[108] Sakhi Saheli: Promoting Gender Equity and Empowering Young Women – A Training Manual. CORO and Horizons/Population Council, 2008.

Click to access India_SakhiSaheli_Eng.pdf

[109] Menon, Making a Difference, p. xx.

[110] Menon, Making a Difference, p. 216.



[113] Raka Ray, editor. Handbook of Gender. Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 535.

[114] “Anyone Can be a Feminist,” Times of India, March 8, 2011.

[115] Ritu Menon, “Feminism’s Unfinished Business,” FeministIndia, March 9, 2012.

[116] Anuj Chopra, “Pink Gang Women,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 14, 2009, p. A6. videos:

2010 film Pink Saris

2012 documentary Gulabi Gang

[117] Graham Peebles, “Gender and Caste Discrimination,”, March 14, 2014.

“India’s Cast Culture is a Rape Culture, Daily Beast, June 9, 2014.



[120] Ruchira Gupta and Gloria Steinem, “Notes on a Tour of the Indian Women’s Movement,” New York Times, January 30, 2014.

[121] “December 16: A Year Later,”, Hin

[122] Soutik Biswas, “India: Woman Gang-Raped on Orders of ‘Kangeroo Court,’” BBC News, January 23, 2014.

[123] Ellen Barry and Mansi Choksi, “Gang Rape in India, Routine and Invisible,” New York Times, October 26, 2013.

[124] “India Gang Rapes,” BBC News India, May 31, 2014.



[127] Sonali Kolhatkar, Why It is Crucial to Examine India’s Rape Epidemic Through the Lens of Caste, TruthDig, June 19, 2014.

[128] “A Young Social Activist,” Times of India, no date.