Less than 8 months after the launch of Digital India, a massive “mobile connectivity” project spearheaded by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi that aims to “empower the people of the country digitally,” several villages in India are now banning mobile phones for unmarried women and girls. Their varied reasons for doing so are mind-numbingly absurd and laden with misdirected blame, which sadly comes as no surprise based on the number of heinous atrocities that continue to be committed against women and girls in India through which fault is wrongfully assigned to them.
Citing cell phone use by young women as creating “a nuisance,” and likening it to having the same negative effect on society as alcohol abuse by men, the community leaders in Suraj, a village in Gujarat, India’s westernmost state, have banned the use of mobile phones for unmarried women and girls, making it a finable offense enforced by what essentially amount to legions of community spies.
“Alcohol consumption by men and cell phone use by women create a lot of disturbance in society. Young girls get misguided. It can break families and ruin relationship,” said Raikarnji Thakor, a community leader from north Gujarat, as reported by Hindustan Times.
So now, if a young woman is caught using or possessing a mobile phone in Suraj village, which is just 100 km (or roughly 62 miles) from the state’s financial capital of Ahmedabad, she will be fined 2,100 Rupees (approx. $31 US), and whoever rats her out to the local authorities gets a financial reward.
“Girls get spoiled and get involved in relationships with boys at a young age because they use phones. This further leads to crime against them.”
Shortly after Suraj village put its ban in place, the panchayat (system of local government) of Basauli village, which is about 80km (or 50 miles) from Agra, a city in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state and home to the iconic Taj Mahal, followed suit by prohibiting all “girls younger than 18″ from using mobile devices as well as social media, blaming both for “corrupting” them. Violators in this village (young women and their parents) have to “sweep the village roads for 500m (.31 miles) for five days, or pay hefty penalties of up to Rs 1,000 (or $14.50 US).”
In an interview with Times of India, Basauli village panchayat coordinator Ramveer Singh said, “Girls get spoiled and get involved in relationships with boys at a young age because they use phones. This further leads to crime against them. In our times, there were no such problems, but this technology has spoiled them and we needed to curb it.” He added, “In a meeting of village elders and other men, it was decided that several teams will keep a tab on girls carrying phones.”
So a young woman’s cell phone usage warrants the official assembly of stealth teams of crime prevention informants, but the rape, trafficking, child marriage, honor killing, etc. committed against her don’t?
If the premise is to protect women and girls from things that can harm them, these local governments have their priorities completely out of order.