An Indian village has imposed a ban on cellphone use for young women. The village leaders insist that mobile phone use among unmarried young girls has created a “nuisance to the society.” Any minor girl found using a mobile phone could face a stiff fine.
Elders in a village in Mehsana district of Gujarat state, in the western region of India, have communally decided to ban minor girls from using or owning mobile phones. The elders claim the gadgets distract them from their studies and are a nuisance to the society. Incidentally, the same law isn’t applicable to young males or boys in the same region yet, but a similar ban is being formulated that would disallow school-going boys from possessing and using mobile phones.
In early February, members of the Suraj village council (Mehsana) passed a resolution, decided by the heads of the village, to stop the use of mobile phones for teenage girls and young women, reported ABP Live.
Speaking about the ban, village head Devshi Vankar said, “Community leaders felt that just like liquor, the use of mobile phones by unmarried women was a nuisance to society. Mobile phones were distracting unmarried women from carrying out their studies and household chores in the village. We have also found that school girls are getting distracted due to mobile phones, as they play games on it and do not concentrate on studies. Their poor parents have to bear extra burden of recharging these mobile phones.”
The village, which has a population of just over 2,000 people, is in the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat. The region, once a hometown and headquarters of Mahatma Gandhi, already has a strict ban on all types of alcohol. Interestingly, the village leaders had assembled to address the issue of illegal consumption of alcohol when the ban on cellphone usage cropped up.
The state of Gujarat has to constantly deal with alcohol smugglers who bring in booze from nearby states and then sell for a handsome profit. Moreover, there are illegal breweries and distillers operating in the region that cater to the customers. Needless to say, the alcohol produced in these makeshift factories is often adulterated and of questionable quality. Consumption of such bootlegged liquor has led to alcohol poisoning and other complications, which is an additional burden on the state-run hospitals.
The ban on the cellphone use for minor girls has some additional rules. Anyone caught owning or speaking on a mobile phone will face a fine of Rs. 2,100 ($30), confirmed the council. The girls can, however, use their parents’ or relatives’ phones. It seems the girls will need a valid permission or consent from the owner of the cellphone. The village is also offering Rs. 200 ($3) as a reward to informers for “tip-offs.”
The ban is only limited to school girls. Women attending college have been spared by the village council, referred to as a panchayat. Justifying the ban for minor girls, Vankar stated that the rule was necessary to “save” girls from this technology, reported Mumbai Mirror.
“College girls are mature enough to differentiate between good and bad. Further, they also need mobile phone to stay connected with their parents as colleges are located in nearby cities not in our village,” Vankar said.
While the council claims that cellphone usage among young girls distracts them from studies and household chores, many quietly hope the ban will help bring down cases of sexual harassment of the minor girls. Impressionable young girls are often lured by sexual predators using mobile phones. Cellphones offer a great degree of anonymity and privacy for the girls, who can clandestinely arrange their rendezvous.
“Everyone knows what happens in today’s world due to mobile phones. This is Kalyug. This is an era of WhatsApp, where people secretly talk with each other. We have to save girls from those who acquire their number and harass them or try to lure these innocent girls.”
India is home to one of the largest and fastest growing mobile phone markets. With more than a billion connections, it is quite common to see a cellphone in almost every hand, including young girls and boys. The ban comes amidst the country attempting to promote the use of technology in rural India. The country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spearheaded such initiatives as “Digital India” to help boost connectivity in India, reported the Straits Times.
[Photo by Noah Seelam/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images]