No need to ban khap panchayats: CM Kejriwal
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is a self-proclaimed advocate of progressive social politics, has now sparked a controversy by stating that he does not see the need for banning khap panchayats because they serve a "cultural purpose”.
Kejriwal told news agency Reuters in an interview that he would not ban the illegal village courts.
Notably, khap panchayats often support harsh treatment of women and issue misogynistic diktats, including ordering ‘dishonour killings'.
According to Reuters, the 45-year-old's stand on the unelected all-male bodies contrasts with that of some women's groups who want them dismantled.
"No, it is not a question of banning these panchayats," Kejriwal told Reuters.
"Khap Panchayats are a group of people who come together. There is no bar on people to assemble in this country ... (But) whenever they take a wrong decision, whenever they take an illegal decision, they ought to be punished."
Khap panchayats' diktats have ranged from banning women from wearing western clothes and using mobile phones to ordering the killing of young couples. Some councils have demanded that the minimum age of marriage be lowered to 16 from 18 for girls and 21 for boys as a way of coping with an increase in the number of rapes.
The councils are coming under growing scrutiny because of their brutal forms of punishment, prompting some women's rights activists to label them the "Taliban of India”.
Last week, 13 men were arrested after they were alleged to have gang-raped a 20-year-old tribal women on the orders of a village court in West Bengal as punishment for having a relationship with a man from another community.
The case made waves in the country, underscoring how sexual violence has become a serious social and political issue since the rape and murder of a physiotherapist on a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012, an attack that sparked nationwide demonstrations.
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Image: Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal speaks during an interview with Reuters at his residence
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters