While the entire nation is discussing how to make public spaces safer for women, certain “community institutions” have decided to solve the problem by taking women out of the public sphere altogether.
After panchayats in Bihar and Haryana issued diktats against girls using mobile phones, or wearing jeans and T-shirts, the latest to join the fray is a village panchayat in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district.
The Anjuman Muslim Panchayat in Udaipur’s Salumber municipality, 500 km from here, has banned girls from using mobile phones and singing and dancing.
Girls will not be allowed to use mobile phones as “they are spoiling girls”, the panchayat’s secretary Habi-ur-Rehman was quoted in the local media as saying.
The diktat also prohibits girls from singing and dancing in wedding ceremonies.
Further, the panchayat prohibited men and women from marrying outside their community or against their parents’ wish. If a couple eloped, they would be liable to pay Rs. 51,000 in fines; so would any man or woman who married outside the community, the panchayat held.
The Rajasthan chapter of the All India Milli Council “fully supported” the panchayat. “Why does a girl need a mobile? What does she have to communicate? In the context of widespread cultural invasion of traditional values by way of TV and Internet, the panchayat’s decision is absolutely justified,” Abdul Kayyum Akhtar, State general secretary of the All India Milli Council told The Hindu .
However, women’s organisations termed the panchayat’s order outrageous.
“Neither Islam nor the Koran allows for such outrageous provisions. All these extra-legal institutions lay down rules just for girls while allowing boys to go on molesting them,” said Nishat Hussain, convener of the National Muslim Women’s Welfare Society.