05/12/2012 15:59 GMT | Updated 05/12/2012 16:12 GMT

Women Banned From Using Mobile Phones In Indian Village Over Fears Of Affairs

A village in Northern Indian has banned women from using mobile phones amid fears they encourage affairs and cause women to elope, local media has reported.

If women in the Bihar village of Sunderbari do use mobiles, they face heavy fines, The Hindustan Times reports, listing the penalties as Rs.10,000 (£114) for an unmarried woman or Rs.2,000 (£22) for a married woman.

The top end of the fine is a fifth of the average income in the capital of New Delhi, let alone the rural village, where 60% are already living below the poverty line.

The move has been imposed by the village council, under a local government system known as a panchayat.

Mohammad Manzoor Alam, who led the council meeting, told Indian news wire IANS: "The mobile phone is the cause of all evils in our society, including increasing love affairs and the incidents of elopement".

He told Reuters: "Even married women were deserting their husbands to elope with lovers. That was shameful for us," Alam said.

"So, we decided to tackle it firmly. Mobile phones are debasing the social atmosphere."

It is unprecedented and favoured by village elders, according to IANS.

Mohammed Javed Iqbal, another member of the council said that six women had eloped from the village over the past five months telling the New York Times: “The easy use of mobile phones has been the real game changer in all the incidents.”

Women's rights organisations have criticised the move, calling them illegal and saying they merely exist to isolate women. All India Democratic Women’s Association told the New York Times that the laws are passed by men to "cut women off from the processes of modernization, education and employment.”

Activist Suman Lal said in a debate on local television: "Technology is meant to be used, not to be banned...The order is nauseating."