Village elders in the India’s Uttar Pradesh have prohibited women and girls from using mobile phones outside their homes, imposing a hefty fine on violators. The ruling is meant to prevent women from eloping or even interacting with men.
The elders’ council or khap pranchayat of a predominantly Muslim village, Madora, have set the fine as large as 21,000 rupees (around $330) on those who break the ruling.
Local police Chief Arun Kumar Singh has described the order, declared on Tuesday, as being “against the constitution.”
“We do support their measures against illegal activities, but won’t allow them to curb the freedom of women,” Singh told AFP.
The former village headman, Mohammed Goffar, who came up with the order, claims the mobile phones encourage women to elope.
“Every week, there is a story about young boys running away with girls. In some cases, the elopement leads to violence. So an informal meeting of villagers decided that girls should use mobile phones only within the boundaries of their homes,” Ghaffar, told The Hindu.
“I want to make it clear that we have not banned mobile phones for women. All we are saying is that please do not use it outside your house.”
Although the decision carried out by the village elders are not legally binding, they have vast influence in the rural north of India.
India has a record of enforcing restricting measures on women. In December 2016, Mumbai College forbade its female students to wear ripped jeans.
Many of the country’s universities impose curfews on female students that do not exist for their male counterparts. Defending the curfews in March, Indian Women’s Minister Manekha Gandhi said they were necessary to protect young women from their “hormonal outbursts.”