Journalist Amana Fontanella-Khan tells the story of Sampat Pal, a poor illiterate girl who was married at the age of 12 and went on to lead a brigade of women in India who stand up to corrupt police and gangsters. They defend victims of abuse, in some cases even beating abusive husbands with sticks. One week after four men were sentenced to death for the brutal gang rape of a woman in New Delhi, we talk to Fontanella-Khan about her book “Pink Sari Revolution,” and with other panelists about how women in India are embracing a new age of empowerment.

Amana Fontanella-Khan, author of "Pink Sari Revolution: A Tale of Women and Power in India," contributor to Slate, the Daily Beast and former contributing editor to Vogue India
Sonia Faleiro, author of "Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars"
Sunita Sohrabji, staff reporter for India West, a weekly newspaper published in San Leandro for Indian-Americans
Julie McCarthy, NPR correspondent based in New Dehli, India

  • Alec

    There is a great BBC documentary about women’s situation in India, which at no point mentions religion as a cause:

    My take on the problem from this documentary:

    It seems that in a country with many language and several religions, the essential problem is not religion but one of social conservatism. The aggressors speak of women’s respectability, which is a vague term poorly defined by bullies, and they define non-respectable women to be fair targets. Here in the USA we too have social conservatives who similarly offer weak and moronic excuses for the bullying of easy targets, although in the USA it is mainly gays, atheists, racial minorities etc. who are targeted.

    But I wonder, if at some point in the future Indian women have achieved general respect and security in India, will those women themselves be able to reject social conservatism, or just the addictive bullying that it promotes, or will newly respected Indian women mostly remain social conservatives and thus join their former bullies in condemning the range of people and behaviors that social conservatives worldwide tend to e.g. gays?
    Could the pink sari movement result in Indians becoming what Americans call liberals, or will it merely modify the current conservatism?

  • Guest

    I’m an Indian male who migrated to the US in 1999 at age 22. I’ve been routinely visiting India and have majority of my friends and family back in India.
    It’s a sad evolution in a country where there are so many women deities that women are treated as 2nd class citizens irrespective of income, education etc.
    Not to blame the victim but women themselves have been brainwashed into coveting a male child and doting over their sons and treating their daughters as inferior. There are exceptions ofcourse but unfortunately in my experience it is pervasive across a broad section of Indian society.
    Even my college friends who have migrated to US, the wives tell about the pressure they get from family back home about the need to have a male heir. An Indian co-worker told me that her mother in law stopped talking to them after her first child was a daughter.

  • capriguy

    India is a sad story of a country that has an amazing potential (mainly because of the growing middle class, smart people and the demographics) but is being held back by its broken institutions and pathetic ruling class.

    The only way for it to break out is to bring huge changes in how the institutions (police, judiciary, executive and others) work. That is not possible as long as the Congress government is in power because they benefit hugely from status-quo.

    The only hope is if alternate parties such as BJP or AAP come to power. AAP holds a huge potential but was just formed last year and has a long way to go. In the interim, BJP holds the most hope, which is more progressive and change-focused than Congress party.

    I hope the US works hand-in-hand with BJP and AAP to help bring about change in India.

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