Several villages in western India have banned girls and single women from owning mobile phones, saying the devices distract them from their studies.

Villages in the Mehsana and Banaskantha districts in Gujarat state imposed the ban, and more villages have joined the campaign, said Ranjit Singh Thakor, president of the Mehsana district council.

The ban applies to girls under the age of 18 and unmarried women, he said.

"The girls don't study properly if they have mobile phones, and they can get into all sorts of bad situations," Thakor told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone.

"Let them study, get married, then they can get their own phones. Until then, they can use their fathers' phones at home, if necessary."

It wasn't the first time Indian villages have taken this step.

Villages in eastern Bihar state imposed a similar ban a few years ago, saying mobile phones were "debasing the social atmosphere" by leading young women to elope.

India is the world's second-biggest market for mobile phones, with more than one billion users.

In Mehsana district, offenders will be fined about 2,100 rupees ($31) and informants will be rewarded, Thakor said.

While more villages appear to be embracing the phone ban, villages in Banaskantha district have an informal rule, said Gaurav Dahiya, the district development officer.

"It was imposed by elders in the villages, saying it's for the girls' safety," he said. "But not many people are following it."

 Indian women take safety into their own hands

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation