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Jeans, mobiles and khap panchayats

in INDIA, 21/10/2013

Haryana's caste councils feel a strict dress code on women will curb the spate of honour killings

Khap panchayats (caste councils) in the State have hit out at girls “for being the agents who pollute society and bring a bad name to the community”.

The panchayats argue that such restrictions will curb the rising rate of honour killings in the region — not some remote rural pocket, but comprising districts that now form part of the National Capital Region. Each gruesome killing of a young couple, which is quite common in this region, has spurred khap panchayats to issue increasingly unreasonable diktats in the name of upholding societal morals. Wearing a pair of jeans, going for a drive with a male friend or even talking on a mobile phone — behaviour which is considered perfectly normal for any young girl just a few miles away from khap-dominated areas — can attract brutal punishment here. “We believe that a woman should be covered from head to toe in loosefitting clothes that do not attract the male eye. Our idea of beauty is a woman whose hands alone are visible. Even her eyes should preferably be under a veil,” says Rajinder Singh, vice president of Barah Birohar Khap, as he puffs a hookah.

The new dress code for any girl above 10 years of age in these villages is a salwar-kameez. Even a churidar-kurta — they look with disdain at my modest green churidar and cotton dupatta — is offensive as it outlines the legs, they say (forgetting, for some reason, that black churidars with shirts were common attire among elderly women in rural Haryana till a few years ago).

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