Some days the perverse humor of the news gods is just too much to handle. You read the Associated Press headline "India Set to Elect 1st Female President" and take a satisfied sip of coffee, only to spew it across the lead of this Reuters story: "A new film will examine a centuries-old tradition among some underprivileged Indian communities where girls in the family become prostitutes, with their brothers and fathers acting as pimps." As far as concomitant news reports go, this is quite the odd couple.
Starting with the bad: Reuters reports on a new film that tackles the tradition of family-based prostitution among poverty-stricken communities in India. The tradition is mainly practiced in male-dominated communities in central and southern India, according to Reuters. Once a girl turns 12, she's introduced into the world of prostitution: "The mother dresses up the daughter for her first client while the father negotiates the best price for her virginity." It gets uglier yet: More than 90 percent of these adolescent and teenage prostitutes become pregnant; STDs also run rampant.
That brings us to the more cheerful news that India may soon elect its first female president. Pratibha Patil, governor of Rajashtan, was nominated by the Congress Party for the presidential elections next month. The Parliament and state legislatures ultimately elect the president, whose position is "largely ceremonial," according to the AP. One can only hope that a woman's ascension as president could boost women's and girls' status nationwide -- even if she was granted very limited power.
Lest I leave you in some idealistic feminist fantasyland, though, the AP offers this reality check: "While women have fared well in Indian politics in the past ... that has not always translated into greater rights for women."