On Sunday, the self-appointed village council of Sunderbari within the state of Bihar in India prohibited the use of mobile phones by unmarried women and girls. The use of mobile phones by married women has also been restricted to when they are indoors and in the company of a relative. The ban resulted from fear of immoral relationships outside of marriage increasing due to the use of the use of mobile phones. Women who violate the ruling can face severe fines of up to 10,000 rupees.
Members of the all-male panchayat (an informal, but respected council of village leaders) justified their ruling by arguing that the reputation of their village has been compromised by the handful of single women who have eloped with their partners as well as some married women who have left their husbands by eloping with their current partners. Manuwar Alam, head of the committee to enforce the new ban, said that it was shameful every time someone asked who had eloped. "So, we decided to tackle it firmly," he told Reuters, "Mobile phones are debasing the social atmosphere."
Women's rights activist Jagmati Sangwan, the vice president of the All India Democratic Women's Association, claims the ban is illegal and the village councils "want women to get cut off from the processes of modernization, education and employment." Another activist, Suman Lal, described the ban as "nauseating" on a debate on local television.
Women have been the target of other village councils, according to the New York Times. In the Bagpat district of Uttar Pradesh, the panchayat banned unarranged marriages and the ability of women under the age of 40 to attend markets. In addition, these councils have also lowered the age of marriage to 16 in response to an increase in sexual assault, predicting that this adjustment will "keep women sexually satisfied." The new ban that restricts women from using mobile phones is under investigation.
Media Resources: Reuters 12/5/12; New York Times 12/4/12; NDTV 12/3/12
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .