January 19, 2006


The Fatwa against Mini-Skirts: A new wave of prudishness is washing over India. It's striking the country's prosperous technology capitals and has led to fatwas and campaigns against India's most popular celebrities. And when Playboy hits the newsstands for the first time later this year, its hallmark Bunnies won't be exposing their birthday suits. (Padma Rao, 1/19/06, Der Spiegel)

The most troubling aspect of these recent incidents is that they have taken place in the very information technology capitals of India that have been wooing overseas investors and vying against each other to present themselves as the most tolerant and cosmopolitan. Hyderabad is India's second-largest IT hub and it is home to Microsoft's largest foreign center outside of Redmond.

Some believe the new wave of prudishness is a consequence of the country's rapid economic changes. "It is India's conservative but booming middle class who most fear the loss of the traditional Indian family whenever women assert their sexuality," says India's leading social scientist and psychoanalyst, Dr. Sudhir Kakkar. "Through their frank views on sex, Khushboo and Sania crossed that rubicon." [...]

Of course, some Indians in high places feel that the whole brouhaha over the crackdown is much ado about nothing. "There are some things we cannot copy from the West," said Krishna Tirath, a member of India's parliament who is named after the greatest Casanova of Hindu mythology herself. "As our society does not approve of pre-marital sex, it must be done undercover."

Actually it's the most important thing for them to import from us

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 19, 2006 10:33 AM

The moist important thing?

Orrin, I hope for your sake that's just a typo.

Posted by: Mike Morley at January 19, 2006 11:13 AM

Can the author really be implying that prudishness will inhibit a high tech industry that is composed primarily of engineers?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 19, 2006 3:37 PM

Prudishness will inhibit the entire country if gone unchecked. The generation that should carry the country into the future could be eradicated by AIDS, overwhelm the health care system, overwhelm the social system with no working class to support the economy, etc. The technological and economic advances could erode entirely. If people are not willing to face realities and start talking about the future they will void their ability to have one. I don't know why the media portrays these events as a phenomena, most countries in Africa have been models of what not to do about AIDS for over 20 years. I hope the phenomenon they are attempting to portray is the lack of understanding. Yet here we are watching more and more countries start the slide down the slippery slope.

Posted by: Jennifer Howe at January 19, 2006 4:50 PM

From what I gather from my Indian collegues, India was very conservative until recently (with the usual exemption for the highest levels of society) and probably still is for those not involved in IT.
IT provides young people with a high income and since it is largely meritocratic old ways to enforce social cohesion loose their power.

Posted by: Daran at January 19, 2006 5:22 PM

Ms. Howe;

Could you explain to me how exactly AIDS is a problem is there is no extra-marital sex? Wouldn't it effectively disappear as a public health issue in a sufficiently prudish society?

In this regard, it is interesting that you bring up Africa. My reading is that the one nation that has made progress against AIDS (Uganda) has done so by re-imposing prudery as best it can. Perhaps you should try that "facing reality" thing you recommend for others.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 19, 2006 8:40 PM

The AIDS issue is interesting. Hinduism, first, is very diverse theologically. Its divisions are less similar that the three Abramaic religions.

A useful article at http://www.religionandfacts.com/homosexuality/hinduism.htm discusses this. The danger they face from AIDS is that their traditional culture frowns on easy and open sexuality, but it does not single out homosexuality for condemnation as do the religions based in the middle east.

When then traditional culture is weakened by diffusion of modern Western attitudes, they will not have our deep revulsion for male homosexuality on which to fall back: the old "cafeteria culture" problem. When the impact of gender-specific baby-murder sets in, they could have a real AIDS problem.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 19, 2006 9:10 PM

Prudishness in society means nothing unless they close the brothels where girls are literal sex slaves from age 10 or so until they are just about dead. Or until they close the truck stop brothels where all the women in the villages are prostitutes (with training) from age 14 until about 35. Strange the similarity to Victorian England.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 19, 2006 11:17 PM

Too bad we don't manufacture that anymore.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at January 20, 2006 3:37 PM


Tried smoking in public lately?

Posted by: oj at January 20, 2006 3:44 PM