Women and girls in India denied smartphones because men consider it ‘indecent’ and shameful

An Indian woman checks her mobile phone while walking through a business district in Mumbai on June 27, 2016. (INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

Cellphones in India remain out of the grasp of tens of millions of women — not because they are expensive (they cost under $50) but because fathers and husbands are barring access to them. “They start talking and the next thing you will have a love marriage or she will run away with a boy,” one father, who has forbidden his daughters from having cellphones, told the Wall Street Journal.

The man, who goes just by the one name Balbir, said if he had sons he would get them phones, but not his daughters — even understanding it could increase their safety. “If a girl is walking on the road playing music on her phone, what will people think? They’ll say she isn’t a decent girl.”

In India, 114 million more men than women have cellphones, exacerbating an already deep gender inequality. In India, smartphones are commonly used for job searches, banking, study, ordering tickets for rail travel, and engaging with government.

A village in Gujarat banned single women from using mobile phones, with elders deeming the technology a "nuisance to society." (SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)

A village in Gujarat banned single women from using mobile phones, with elders deeming the technology a “nuisance to society.” (SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)

In areas of rural India partially governed by village councils, decrees have been issues barring unmarried women from owning cellphones, and similar restrictions are exercised in urban-based families. In Laipur, a village in Uttar Pradesh, village elder Ram Sanhaiya told the WSJ, “Mobile phones are really dangerous for women. Girls are more susceptible to bringing shame upon themselves.”

“Women should be allowed to talk over the phone as little as possible,” he fold a gathering in Laipur.

A range of telecommunications groups and NGOs are addressing the disparity in various ways — via offering free internet access or cheaper call plans to women, and working with micro lenders to distribute used smartphones and build affordable, rugged networks.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.


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