For those who tend to get upset about patriarchal over-reach and misogyny as it appears on the Internet, prepare to have your minds blown in the worst way possible by the recent decision of a village council in Suderbari, a town in eastern India. In an effort to prevent what is being described as pollution of “the social atmosphere,” women in the town have been prohibited from using cell phones.
The decision was announced earlier this week following a formal meeting of the village council held on Sunday, with the president of the council’s social advisory committee, Manuwar Alam, explaining that “unrestricted use of mobile phones is promoting premarital and extramarital affairs and destroying the great institution of marriage.” Characterizing the council’s attitude towards this attack on the institution of marriage to be “extremely worried” (“We had to hide our faces out of shame,” he explained), the village council announced the ban on women being able to have unrestricted use of cell phones in the future, with Alam describing the action as a choice “to do something that could firmly curb such cases [of cheating and marital disrespect], which were earning a bad name for all of us.”
Because, you know, trying to prevent half of your population from having access to technology widely available throughout the world and, in the process, removing any right to free speech while also seeming to place the blame for societal downfall squarely on their shoulders by reason of their gender alone is the kind of thing that gives a society a far better name. Obviously.
It isn’t a complete ban on women using cell phones, however; women will be allowed to use a phone in the presence of a male family member, according to the council. Women who are caught breaking the ban will be fined, with the amount of financial penalty on a sliding scale depending on social status; unmarried women will have to pay 10,000 Indian rupees ($184 US) if caught using a cell phone, while married women will only have to pay 2,000 rupees ($37 US).
Thankfully, this decision has not gone unnoticed by human rights groups who have been rightfully appalled by the idea. Pointing out that cell phones can be almost immeasurably important for women in terms of personal security in certain rural areas of India, especially with the danger of sexual assault, campaigners have started to mobilize in response to the Suderbari council’s decision. One campaigner, Farzana Begum, described the announcement as an attempt to “infringe on rights of women,” adding that “such things cannot be allowed in a democratic society.”
The Suderbari council is apparently standing by its choice, refusing to back down or even address criticisms of its announcement.