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Jeans, mobiles and khap panchayats

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

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

21st October 2013 15:01

Alessia Valenza

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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