Snap Mobile, Save Marriage

Chandigarh, May 10 (Media) Mobiles and marriages? They simply don’t go together even if this is the 21st century, believes the Punjab State Commission for Women (PSCW) that has asked young women to curtail or snap mobile ties with their families to keep their marriages intact.

The PSCW, a statutory body of the Punjab government tasked with safeguarding the interests of women, has issued a list of dos and don’ts on how to keep marriages going smoothly. The formula, aimed only at wives of course, is simple : either limit your conversation or totally cut it, at least during the initial few months.

The advisory, written in Punjabi and issued in the form of a brochure last week, says girls need to be ‘very adjustable’ as mobile phones are seen to be breaking many alliances in Punjab. A bride’s family members, it adds for good measure, should be less interfering if they want her to be happy.

It says a marriage usually takes nearly two years to be successful and brides, during this period, should make adjustments and avoid talking over the mobile. Long conversations, it believes, only makes husbands and her in-laws suspicious.

The women’s panel advisory has provoked a storm of protest with women from all sections of society dismissing it as regressive, glorifying male chauvinism and, at best, a big joke.

‘This is a very strange advisory and is no solution to save any marriage. Every relation is built on trust and this advisory is itself planting suspicion in the minds of young men and women,’ Neelam Mansingh, eminent theatre personality from Chandigarh, told Media.

‘This advisory suggests that every woman is adulterous and every man is suspicious, which is really weird. This is very regressive and bizarre; the commission should try to evolve some other mechanism to save marriages,’ said Mansingh, who teaches at the Indian Theatre department at Panjab University and has directed 35 plays in a career spanning 30 years.

Pankhuri Bhalla, who writes for a city-based fashion magazine and got married six months ago, is equally outraged.

‘This advisory is a big joke, simply glorifying male chauvinism. Every day I have to call at least seven-eight people in connection with my stories, but it does not imply that I am having an affair with someone.’

College student Prarthana Gill added: ‘Advising someone to stop using mobiles or minimizing its use is very illogical. How can it save any marriage? The commission should again look into the advisory.’

Faced with the trenchant criticism of its brochure, sent to welfare offices across the state, the PSCW said it based its advisory on an evaluation of the many cases of harassed women that had come to it.

‘Many cases of harassed young women, seeking divorce, have come to us during the past few months. After counselling them and evaluating these cases, we found that mobile phones have emerged as one of the major culprits. Therefore, we have drafted this advisory,’ Gurdev Kaur Sangha, chairperson of PSCW, told Media.

‘Girls keep on talking for hours over the mobiles and it leads to suspicion in the minds of their mothers-in-law and husbands. She could be talking to her parents or brother, but her in-laws might think that she is talking to another man. So, we have suggested they minimise, as much as possible, the use of mobiles during initial months of marriage,’ stated Sangha, while justifying the advisory.

Sangha added: ‘Talking over mobile is a very serious issue. Many cases have come to me where boy and his family members think that the girl is talking to another man over the phone and they want divorce. This also led to domestic violence.’

Punjab is also known for its intolerance towards girls and its skewed sex ratio. In the 2011 Census, its sex ratio stood at 893 girls for every 1,000 males. Many cases of honour killings, including killings of young women, have also rocked this state in the past few years.

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