2016-05-14 16:11:00

Indian state bans "social boycotts" by panchayats‎

India's Maharashtra state has become the first in the country to ban village councils from imposing "social boycotts" that ostracise individuals or families for defying tradition.  Women and lower caste Dalits often bear the brunt of such judgments, passed as punishment for perceived misdeeds such as marrying between castes or dressing immodestly.  The western Indian state last month passed the law against a decades-old practice of village panchayats, or councils, ordering social boycotts

Under village council orders, individuals and families have been banished from the community, and denied access to temples, wells, markets and celebrations.  In some cases, panchayats have even branded women as witches, and ordered gang rapes or killings as punishment.

Maharashtra's new law declares social boycotts a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison, a fine of 500,000 ($7,500), or both.  .  "The Act was required against the backdrop of atrocities inflicted on people in the name of tradition, caste and community," said Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.  "It is necessary to prohibit social boycotts as a matter of social reform in the interest of public welfare," he said. 

Human rights campaigners called for other Indian states to follow Maharashtra's example.  (Source: Reuters)

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