A group of village elders, all men, conducted a council meeting to enact
important social policies. The decrees they passed include: Women under
age 40 are banned from going out shopping. Girls must wear head scarves in
public. Girls are not allowed to use cellphones. Marriages that are not based on
parental arrangements are banned. Women under 40 are banned from going out after
This might seem like Afghanistan under Taliban rule in the late
However, this is, in fact, India in 2012.
Not far from the
country’s capital, New Delhi, in a village in the Baghpat district of the state
of Uttar Pradesh, a panchayat, or local traditional government system, passed
these new rules as of February 2012.
Couples who fall in love and want to
marry are excommunicated from the village, because “love marriage,” as it is
called in India, is viewed as a dishonor, especially to the girl’s family.
Panchayat members describe the fatwa banning women under 40 from shopping
without a chaperone as a preventative measure since women going alone can “give
rise to crime.” Similarly, the fatwa for girls to wear head scarves is explained
as a measure for their own safety.
As for the cellphone ban imposed on
girls, one member is quoted in the Mail Online India as saying, “We are of the
view that our immature daughters and sisters shouldn’t carry a mobile phone
because it leads to various implications...We want to prevent them from
any wrongdoing and protect them from bad elements.”
village women supported the fatwas, but this panchayat’s Taliban-like views and
chauvinism mark a very alarming trend in India, and it is not exclusive to
Rape and gang rape of career women in Delhi have
reached near epidemic proportions. Shockingly, the victims are usually blamed
for the rape because of what they were wearing and the time of night they
ventured out, many to head home from jobs or universities at odd
The misogynist attitudes among many in India are potent reminders
that, despite all the economic growth and development, mentalities have not
changed. Many people continue to follow old chauvinist notions of girls and
women embodying the source of temptations, social degradation, crimes and
dishonor. In other words, it is the fault of all girls and women that men rape
and commit crimes in society.
Violence against women is also on the rise
in India. In many recent cases, mobs of men have attacked young women in front
of bars and other public places, on the basis that these women were “corrupted.”
Some of these physical assaults have been caught on video and have gone
In a now infamous case last July in Mangalore, members of the
fanatic right-wing Hindu Janajagrana Vedike raided a resort and assaulted girls
they described as “partying indecently.” The men are caught on video slapping,
pushing, and thrashing the women.
The mob also assaulted a reporter and
cameraman who were filming the crimes. The perpetrators justified their actions
by claiming that they were serving as “moral police.”
misogynist mentality is alive and well, and in fact it is thriving and
mushrooming globally. In northern Mali, Islamic militants have taken over, and
the first set of fatwas has targeted women: They must cover up, and they must
not venture outside, even to go to the market. Thousands of refugees have fled
the militant-held areas, but the women left behind face new harsh realities
added to the already difficult life in the extremely poor African
When the Taliban emerged in the mid-1990s, fighting their way to
the seat of power in Kabul during the Afghan civil war, reports trickled out
about their notoriously harsh fatwas that shut down and suffocated the lives of
girls and women, and exacted the most brutal extrajudicial punishments for the
I remember viewing the rise of the Taliban as
one of the darkest milestones in modern history, and my premonitions about the
dangerous precedent of their backward ideology spreading and influencing other
fanatics worldwide rendered many nights sleepless.
Misogyny, of course,
is as old as time itself. However, we live in modern times when universal norms
for human rights and gender equality are to be respected, and violations are not
to be tolerated. The global trends we are seeing in enacting new local laws and
fatwas, and moral policing, that perpetuate misogynist attitudes and policies as
well as violence against girls and women only point to one thing: We are
experiencing a second, broader wave of “talibanization” of societies in
different parts of the world, something I refer to as “Taliban 2.0.”
indicates internal ideological divisions and crises within Islam, Hinduism,
Christianity and Judaism, wherein we see numerous examples of verbal and other
forms of attacks against women and gender equality coming from their respective
“fanatical” elements. Taliban 2.0 is not just an Islamic
However, it seems that nothing is being done about it. In
most cases in India, the perpetrators of violence have been released, if they
were arrested in the first place. Victims continue to be blamed. Women continue
to bear the “original sin,” in many respects for all of society, by virtue of
their anatomy and allure. These attitudes and attempts to stifle women’s rights
and freedoms, in the name of morality and social order, should face a
zero-tolerance policy from governments and law enforcement. But we see much
complacency among them, and so women continue to suffer.
When police have
tried to enforce the law, sometimes they experience a rude awakening. When
police attempted to arrest the panchayat organizers, the scene turned violent.
The police arrested two panchayat members, but then, according to NDTV, the
officers “were brutally attacked while a police vehicle was set on fire. Angry
villagers also blocked the national highway and damaged a bus. They even beat up
the passengers, forcing the police to finally release the two
Is this a sign of things to come?
The writer, a PhD, is an
associate professor at the US Naval War College in Rhode Island. The views
expressed are her own.