talaq issue is always a favourite during elections with various parties
promising to do away with it inviting the usual reaction from the Muslim
patriarchy about how it is best to leave matters of faith and tradition alone.
It is a script we have seen played out all too often. However, while in the
past, the voices of Muslim women were not heard too often, over the last decade
or so, Muslim women have become increasingly vocal. The Muslim Women’s Rights
Network (MWRN) and the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) have given a
voice to Muslim women in whose name the detractors and champions of rights
fight pitched battles, often in television studios. Though far too few, Muslim
women are challenging organisations like the All India Muslim Personal Law
Board (AIMPLB) which has cast itself as the spokesman for the Muslim community,
not taking into account the very different concerns and perspectives of women.
that Muslim women faced and still do is the lack of organised networks though
the MWRN qualifies to some extent. Unlike the more insular male networks, the
women’s organisation is secular and welcomes opinions from all individuals
working the field of Muslim women’s rights.
too works with Muslim women and has sought to go beyond just religious rights
and look at the larger issues of deprivation that Muslim women face. Of the 33%
Muslims (of the total Muslim population as per Census figures) in the
workforce, women’s share is a mere 15%. These too are largely in low paying
jobs. The focus of all political parties has been on issues like triple talaq
ignoring largely the need for Muslim women to improve their educational
standards and join the skilled workforce.
involving Muslim women ought to get out of the confines of issues like purdah
and include the insecurities and the disadvantages they face in relation to
education and work.
The BMMA is
of the opinion that the problems that Muslim women face is not rooted in
religion but in patriarchy as is the case with women in other religions. The
message being conveyed is that women’s rights and religion can coexist and that
it is regressive interpretations of religious texts that are holding women
back. In other Islamic countries, movements like this have advanced
considerably drawing in women and men who are champions for Muslim women’s
difference in thinking among Muslim women’s groups unlike among many of their
male counterparts is the realism with which they approach their struggle. They
are not keen to restrict the movements on the lines of religion and want to
create synergies with other women’s movements. The MWRN especially feels that
it benefits from creating a space for itself within the mainstream women’s
these developments within the Muslim women community do not get much attention
on any media platform. Instead, we have the recurrent theme of how Muslims live
in fear in a BJP-led India with the women hidden away from sight. There is
definitely reason for concern for Muslims but the narrative has to move from
ghettoisation and marginalisation. And the impetus has to come from the Muslim
community and within it especially women, to refuse to let themselves remain
voiceless and marginalised.
issues that Muslim women’s organisations must tackle now is to make sure the
movement permeates down to the Muslim women in the lower socio-economic strata
because the movements so far are still restricted to the educated elite and
confined to urban areas.
effort that has to be made is to involve Muslim men rather than consider them
adversaries. It is not as though there are no women’s rights champions among
Muslim men, in fact many of them have weighed in on the side of women whenever
a contentious issue has arisen. If the current Muslim women’s groups inspire
similar ones across states, we could see an emergence of a vibrant movement
across India which could change the status of women in the community.
Source: The Hindustan Times