An Indian village has banned women from using mobile phones in public in an attempt to restrict their contacts with men and plans hefty fines for violators, police said Wednesday.
Village elders ruled that women found using a mobile phone outside their homes would be fined Indian Rs21,000 rupees ─ a sum it would take most rural Indians several months to earn.
The ruling was issued on Tuesday in Madora, a mainly Muslim village in the conservative northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
“We have received reports about the Khap ordering the ban on women using mobile phones,” local police chief Arun Kumar Singh told AFP, referring to the informal village councils known as khap panchayats in India.
“Such orders are against the constitution and we will take action.” The council believes that mobile phones are helping unmarried women to elope and that a ban will limit their interaction with men.
The council also imposed fines on people caught slaughtering cows ─ illegal in most Indian states ─ or smuggling liquor.
“We do support their measures against illegal activities but won’t allow them to curb the freedom of women,” Singh said.
Khap panchayats are mostly run by male village elders. Although illegal, they have considerable influence in rural north India.
They are known for issuing diktats aimed at upholding the socially conservative traditions that have long held sway and resisting modernisation ─ such as banning women from wearing jeans.
But they have also been blamed for ordering serious crimes, including the so-called “honour killing” of couples who marry outside caste or religion.
Critics accuse them of acting like kangaroo courts and handing down public beatings and other punishments for perceived crimes.