A decade ago, Lalibai, then a mother of four, took a stand and refused to remove and dispose of excrement from her village’s dry toilets, work she inherited at age 12. She had been approached by grassroots activists who said it was illegal for anyone to compel her to do this work, and that she had a choice to leave. She decided to claim her dignity and quit.
Irom Sharmila has been protesting against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) for the last 14 years. Unfortunately, the debate over the Act has been reduced to an absurd test of patriotism: While some contend that repealing the Act would be an insult to the Indian army and would put the soldiers at risk, others feel that it has adversely affected Indian soldiers.
Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi’s decision to focus immediate attention on ending sexual violence against women and girls is good news. However, knee-jerk solutions like death penalty for rapists and lowering the age of a juvenile from 18 to 16 will not help end sexual violence against women.
India’s six-week-long election, in which about 537 million out of 814 million eligible voters went to the polls, is finally over with the election of a new government led by Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Over 40 percent of India’s children drop out of school before finishing 8th grade, despite a recent law designed to provide free and compulsory elementary education for all. Most students who quit school are from the lowest rungs of Indian society. A new Human Rights Watch report, “They Say We’re Dirty,” shows that discrimination by teachers and school officials fail to provide a welcoming and child-friendly school environment for these children. India researcher Jayshree Bajoria talks with Amy Braunschweiger about the consequences of persistent discrimination and what needs to change to keep these kids in school.