PATNA, India - A village council in the eastern Indian state of Bihar has banned the use of mobile phones by women, saying the phones were "debasing the social atmosphere" by leading to elopements - a move that set off outraged protests from activists.
In addition to the ban, the Sunderbari village council in a Muslim-dominated area some 239 miles east of Patna, the capital of Bihar, has also imposed a fine of $180 if a girl is caught using a mobile phone on the streets.
Married women would have to pay $36.60.
"It always gives us a lot of embarrassment when someone asks who has eloped this time," said Manuwar Alam, who heads a newly-formed committee tasked with enforcing the ban, referring to queries from neighboring villages.
He said the number of elopements and extramarital love affairs had risen in the past few months, with at least six girls and women fleeing their homes.
"Even married women were deserting their husbands to elope with lovers. That was shameful for us," Alam said. "So, we decided to tackle it firmly. Mobile phones are debasing the social atmosphere.".