A village council in the eastern Indian state of Bihar has banned the use of mobile phones by women, saying the phones were “debasing the social atmosphere” by leading to elopements — a move that set off outraged protests from activists.
In addition to the ban, the Sunderbari village council in a Muslim-dominated area some 385km east of Patna, the capital of Bihar, has also imposed a fine of 10,000 rupees (US$180) if a girl is caught using a mobile phone on the streets.
Married women would have to pay 2,000 rupees.
“It always gives us a lot of embarrassment when someone asks who has eloped this time,” said Manuwar Alam, who heads a newly-formed committee tasked with enforcing the ban, referring to queries from neighboring villages.
Local officials have begun investigations, saying that such bans cannot be allowed in a healthy society, while women’s rights activists called it an assault on freedom that could potentially end up harming women by stripping them of one source of protection from trouble, such as unwanted advances by men.