PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – Tribal elders and Islamic clerics in northwest Pakistan have barred women from shopping in bazaars without a male relative, elders and an official said Saturday.
The decision was taken on Friday in the Karak district of conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders the restive tribal areas along the Afghan border.
"We have decided that women will not visit bazaars without a male relative," Maulana Mirzaqeem, a cleric and tribal elder, told AFP by telephone.
"Those who will visit markets without male relatives will be handed over to police," he said.
"They spread vulgarity and spoil men's fasting in Ramadan," Mirzaqeem said, adding that the ban would be publicised using local mosques loudspeakers.
The decision had been taken due to the sanctity of the holy month, the cleric said -- it is not clear whether it will be lifted after Ramadan.
A senior government official in Karak confirmed the move.
Taliban threats and social taboos have deprived millions of women of their rights in Pakistan.
In most parts of the northwestern tribal areas women are confined to their homes and do not go shopping or work outside.
Pakistani women in most parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cover their heads and bodies, either with salwar kameez and scarves, or head-to-toe burqas.