A VILLAGE council in the eastern Indian state of Bihar has banned the use of mobile phones by women, saying the devices 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 240 miles east of Patna, Bihar’s capital, has imposed a fine of 10,000 rupees (£115) 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 committee tasked with enforcing the ban, referring to queries from neighbouring villages.
He said the number of elopements and extramarital affairs had risen in the past few months, with at least six girls and women fleeing their homes. “Even married women were deserting their husbands to elope with lovers. That was shameful for us,” Mr Alam said. “So, we decided to tackle it firmly. Mobile phones are debasing the social atmosphere”.
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.