Shikha Dalmia, of Reason, has a new piece up in the Wall Street Journal on India’s harassment problem:
I’ve never met an Indian woman—rich or poor, upper or lower caste, pretty or homely, young or middle-age—who hasn’t been harassed […] Unlike rape and sex-selective abortion, which represent a genuine devaluing of women, sexual harassment in India is, I believe, an expression not of the power of Indian men but of their helplessness. It’s a pathetic attempt to have a sexual encounter, no matter how meaningless and evanescent. Its real cause is free-floating male libido with no socially acceptable outlet.
India’s sexual mores and institutions are rooted in a pastoral past, when people died before 50, so marriages between minors were the norm. Families in villages would betroth their children, at birth sometimes, and have a formal ceremony after both attained puberty, when the girl went to live with her husband’s family. This arrangement, now banned, had many horrendous downsides, but it produced an organic harmony between the sexual needs of individuals and the social expectations of monogamy and chastity […]
What would work [for easing India’s harassment problem]? Nothing short of transforming India’s puritanical culture and giving men and women more freedom to forge sexually mature relationships outside of marriage.
Read the whole thing. I don’t know how much good liberalizing India’s sexual mores would be without first more liberalization in markets. I often think of the US’s own problems when it comes to the sexual revolution of the 1960s: more STDs, more unplanned, unwanted pregnancies, and more costs associated with public health. Another downside was the attempt, by certain feminists, to destroy the very libido of men that Dalmia recommends liberalizing. The attempts by these authoritarians can still be felt today, especially in American universities (see Ken Masugi’s thoughtful piece on this problem).