A shocking remark by a member of the Uttar Pradesh Women's Commission has underlined the deep-seated misogyny and gender issues that continue to haunt Indian society.
In response to a question about increasing rape cases and the state's plans to reduce crime against women, commission member Meena Kumari told reporters "girls should not be given mobile phones" because they "talk with boys and later run away with them".
She also called for round-the-clock policing of young women.
"I appeal to parents not to give mobile phones to daughters... if they do, phones should be checked regularly. All this (crime against women) is due to negligence by mothers," she told reporters.
"We, as parents and society, have to put a check on our daughters... always see where they are going, and which boys they are sitting with. We have to check their mobile phones... girls will keep talking on their phone and then they elope," she said.
After her comments triggered a row Ms Kumari issued a clarification.
"My statement has been misinterpreted. What I said was that parents should check whether their children are using mobile phones for studies or other purposes. I never said that if girls use phones they will run away with boys," she was quoted by news agency ANI.
My statement has been misinterpreted. What I actually said was that parents should check whether their children are using mobile phones for studies or other purposes. I never said that if girls use phones they run away with boys: UP women's commission member Meena Kumari pic.twitter.com/JKeQREaS1N— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) June 10, 2021
Ms Kumari insisted she only spoke specifically about girls because she had been informed "of a case like this". She did not give details of this case, or how it might serve to support her statement.
Video snippets of Ms Kumar's first quote have been widely shared online, with Swati Maliwal, the Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women, among the most forceful critics.
"No ma'am, a phone in a girl's hand is not a reason for rape. The reason for rape is a bad social system that affects the mindset of criminals. The Prime Minister is requested to sensitive all Women's Commission members..." Ms Maliwal tweeted.
"Send them to the Delhi Commission for one day... to see how we work. We will teach them," she added.
नहीं मैडम, लड़की के हाथ में फोन बलात्कार का कारण नहीं है. बलात्कार का कारण है ऐसी घटिया मानसिकता जो अपराधियों के हौसले और बढ़ाती है. प्रधानमंत्री जी से निवेदन है सभी महिला आयोगों को ज़रा सेंसिटाइज करवाइए, एक दिन दिल्ली महिला आयोग की कार्यशैली देखने भेजिए, हम सिखाते हैं इन्हे ! pic.twitter.com/yf1YxC8i6r— Swati Maliwal (@SwatiJaiHind) June 10, 2021
Meena Kumari's comment comes months after a member of the National Commission for Women, Chandramukhi Devi, said the gangrape and murder of a 50-year-old woman in Uttar Pradesh's Budaun could have been avoided if she had not gone out in the evening.
The comment was retracted after a furious outcry, including a scathing attack by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who accused the NCW of victim-blaming.
With input from ANI