Anyone looking for stories of outrages committed against women in India this month doesn’t need to look far. Just after an attack on a woman in the northeast city of Guwahati, and a plea by an Islamist group in Jammu & Kashmir for female tourists to dress more conservatively, a group of village elders in Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh has released some new rules to ensure that women stay safe. The only loss they’ll suffer is individual freedom:
- Women cannot use mobile phones in public
- Women under the age of 40 cannot go outside without a male relative to accompany them.
- Women should cover their heads in public.
- Village boys cannot play songs or music on their mobile phones in public.
The village elders, known as a khap panchayat, took the actions, they said, to prevent sexual harassment. The result, of course, is to punish women pre-emptively by restricting their liberties in the name of protecting them from men who cannot be trusted to restrain themselves.
The Uttar Pradesh government said that the panchayat has no legal authority to enforce such rules, and that people should report attempts to do so. When the police tried to step in, a crowd of people beat them up.
On the same day, a row over attending classes in hijab (headscarf) sprung up in Mangalore when some female students belonging to the Muslim community boycotted classes in Sri Ramkunjeshwara First Grade College, Ramkunja. They were protesting the management’s decision to ban the hijab as a part of their dress code.