In the latest addition of down and out sexist world news, a village called Saraj in the state of Gujarat, India has banned girls and unmarried women from owning and even speaking on a cell phone. The decision was made by the village council in Mehsana district; village head Devshi Vankar believes women cell phone users are a "nuisance to society." He also compared women using their cell phones to alcohol abuse and believes that they distract girls from studies and household work. Another community leader, Raikarnji Thakor, told the Hindustan Times, “Young girls get misguided. It can break families and ruin relationships,” adding that the ban was “the villagers’ idea” and claiming mobile phones were distracting unmarried women from carrying out their studies and household chores in the village.
If found owning or even speaking on a cell phone, these criminals will face a Rs. 2,100 ($30) fine. The council is also offering Rs. 200 ($3) to informers for tip-offs. The only exception to this rule is for women talking to their relatives on their parents' phones.
Because they are seen as tools of empowerment and independence for women, mobile phones are often perceived as threatening by patriarchal village elders. Soon after the Gujarat village's decision, several other villages announced the ban on the use of mobile phones and social media by girls below the age of 18.
Although the overall crime rate in Gujarat is low compared to other states, crimes against women and juveniles it is considerably high. However, seeing as how infedelity is also a crime, officials chose to taken more precaution in preventing cheating than using the advantage of saftey that cell phones provide to prevent crimes against women. According to a study from Indianexpress.com, "The total number of crimes against women in Gujarat was recorded at 8,616. 374 cases cases of rape and 828 of molestation were recorded. The cases of domestic violence cases, especially cruelty from husband and relatives was high (6,094). As many as 59 cases of juvenile murder and 99 of juvenile rapes were registered in Gujarat."
In an ironic twist, the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, who is from Mehsana, pushed for an increase of digital media by launching a "Digital India" initiative to help increase connectivity in India, where a large portion of India's population does not have internet access.
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Courtney Bissonette is a New York based writer and improv comedienne. She writes primarily about movies, pop cultures and feminist heroes. She gets along best with old people. She has seen more old movies than your grandma, probably. Salt from Salt n Pepa once took her Trick'r Treating. You can follow her on instagram at @gddamnitcourtney or twitter @courttette