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Indian village elders banned 'love marriages,' reports say

The so-called panchayats of Asara village in Uttar Pradesh also barred women under 40 from shopping alone and using mobile phones outside.
arranged marriage india 7 16 2012Enlarge
The wedding of two frogs, arranged by farmers seeking rainfall, is performed in Nagpur on June 29, 2012 in order to please the Rain Gods and in the hope that their region would soon receive monsoon showers. (AFP/Getty Images)

A village in India has reportedly banned love marriages and imposed a number of restrictive measures on women's behavior.

Village elders — also known as panchayats — in Asara village, in India's Uttar Pradesh state, have also barred women under 40 from shopping alone and using mobile phones outside, according to the Press Trust of India.

And they must cover their heads when outside, the PTI wrote, or else face exclusion from the village.

According to Agence France-Presse, panchayats — while unelected — are seen as the social and moral arbiters of village life.

Their influential rulings have been blamed for numerous abuses such as "honor killings" of women whose actions are deemed to have brought shame on their family.

However, their rulings carry no legal weight.

National Commission for Women head Mamta Sharma even called the rulings "laughable."

"Panchayats do not enjoy constitutional powers. And if there are no powers, there is no need to follow the orders," Sharma said, AFP reported.

Meantime, villagers themselves were reportedly satisfied with the rulings, conceived they said to prevent young women forming unsuitable relationships.

"Mobile phones are a curse, especially for girls. I would have been more happy if the panchayat had completely banned girls from using mobile phones," villager Tarun Chaudhary reportedly said.

Regardless, local police superintendent V.K. Shekhar said that an inquiry had been ordered into the restrictions.

According to the Times of India, two people had been detained for questioning over the ruling, however a mob of villagers later attacked policemen, demanding their release.

"Protesting the police action, a mob gathered in front of the Asara sugar mill demanding the duo's release. They beat up two policemen, who had gone there to clear the traffic jam, and torched their motorcycle," a police spokesman said.

And the rulings were condemned by women's rights groups.

"This notion that women up to the age of 40 need protection and need to be controlled is extremely chauvinistic and undermines all basic norms,"  Sudha Sunder Raman, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women's Association, reportedly said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/love-arranged-marriage-panchayat-india-new-delhi-child-bride