By BISWAJEET BANERJEE, Associated Press Biswajeet Banerjee, Associated Press – Wed Nov 24, 5:20 am ET
LUCKNOW, India – A northern Indian village has banned unmarried women from using cell phones for fear they will arrange forbidden marriages that are often punished by death, a local official said Wednesday.
The Lank village council decided unmarried boys could use mobile phones, but only under parental supervision, council member Satish Tyagi said. Local women's rights group criticized the measure as backward and unfair.
Marriages between members of the same clan are forbidden under Hindu custom in some parts of north India, where unions are traditionally arranged by families. In conservative rural areas, families sometimes mete out extreme punishments, including so-called honor 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 forbidden elopements.
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 eloped, eight honor killings have been reported in the last month, police said.
"Three girls were beheaded by the male members of their family after they eloped" with boys from their same clan, said police assistant director general Brij Lal in the state capital of Lucknow.
The conflict is relatively new for the Indian region, where most marriages are still arranged by the parents, sometimes without the couple meeting before the wedding.