Can you really ban love?
That’s precisely the hope of a local council or “panchayat” in a rural village in India (via The Telegraph) that recently banned love marriages — those unions that haven’t been arranged by the parents of the bride, on the basis that they are a “shame on society,” unduly upset parents and put a dent in a family’s “respectability.”
The Telegraph reports that the council leaders in the village of Asara, who appear intent on curbing the free will of the region’s female population, are also demanding women under the age of 40 be accompanied by another person when outside of the home. Women are also being told to cover their heads in public and have had their right to speak on mobile phones taken away.
The prohibitions, however, haven’t gone unchallenged. The country’s home minister, P. Chidambaram, took issue with the daring of the council and declared that their orders had “no place” in a democracy, reports the U.K. newspaper.
Chidambaram added that the council could be subject to some law and order of their own should they choose to enforce the bans. He said, “Police must act against anyone issuing such diktats. If anyone takes action against any young man or woman based on illegal village courts, then they must be arrested.”
The council leaders insist that the measures are designed to protect women rather than punish or oppress them. (To which every women on earth is collectively muttering, Suuure, bud.) The problem with the panchayat — aside from its ideas about the need to govern adult women’s intellectual capacity and physical freedom — is that while their legal powers are non-existent (they can’t propose or enforce laws) their local power is significant.
As “an unelected group of elders, who are seen as the social and moral arbiters of village life,” their bans have sometimes been used to justify honour killings, notes Telegraph writer Barney Henderson.
News of the ban comes on the heels of another less than stellar showing for the country when it comes to human rights. Adds Henderson, “India last month topped the Thomas Reuters Foundation poll as the worst place, out of the top 19 economies in the world, for a woman to live.”
Curious about where the best place to live for women is? According to Thomson Reuters it’s Canada.
Would you say Canada is the best country for a woman to live?