Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Who You Gonna Call?

The council of elders in an Indian village has banned unmarried women from using cell phones. Unmarried men may still use them under parental guidance. The reason?

The village council fears that couples can arrange elopements by using cell phones:

Marriages between members of the same clan are forbidden under Hindu custom in some parts of northern India, where unions are traditionally arranged by families. In conservative rural areas, families sometimes mete out extreme punishments, including "honour killings", for those who violate marriage taboos. In some cases, village councils themselves have ordered the punishments, though police often intervene to stop them.

The Lank village council feared young men and women were secretly calling one another to arrange to elope.

Last month, 34 couples eloped in Muzaffarnagar district, where Lank is located, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, police said. Among the couples who did so, eight "honour killings" have been reported in the past month, police said.
The local women's rights group said "the ban demonstrated the councils' archaic mindset, and warned that it could put girls at a disadvantage in other areas of life."

Indeed. But the Saudi ban on women driving has a similar effect and so do most all sex-specific infringements of individual liberty, including such once-common rules in the U.S. as banning women from working at night. And of course banning unmarried men from using cell phones would have worked every bit as well. But that's not the form these types of rules take.