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Archives for : muslim women

The camera is on Muslim women

Dehleez toh paar kar li hai, ab zamane se takrana hai.

Peeche mud ke ab kya dekhoon, mujhe aage badhte jana hai.

I have crossed the patriarchal boundary, now I have to fight the world

Why should i look back now, I have to  keep on walking ahead …….


By Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

It’s a powerful film, ‘Tiryaaq’, which literally means an antidote. It’s a narrative that is meant to reach out to regular people and the patriarchal powers of polity, clergy and family with the intention of not just unravelling the insidious functioning of caste patriarchy and religious fundamentalism but also training the spotlight on the lives and struggles of countless Muslim women who are confined within the contours of ‘nation’, ‘community’ and ‘family’.

Conceptualised by activist and Ashoka Fellow Hasina Khan, this is a story told by grassroots Muslim women associated with Bebaak Collective, a group of 15 organisations that work in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, among other states, and engage on issues like education, violence, communalism, employability, rehabilitation, advocacy and health. “Over a period of three years, we held sustained interactions with members of these organisations. We talked about the work being done with women, shared experiences, discussed ways in which we could build a collective perspective and strategised for enhancing networking and campaigning capabilities,” reveals Khan. The film has emerged from these engagements and is an honest attempt “to bring to the fore, the personal and political journeys of Muslim women and the inter-linkages between the two”.

The women candidly share on camera their life stories with the viewers – talking about how they managed to redefine their family structures, their relationships, the community dynamics, and most importantly, their identities. Simultaneously, the film also uncovers women’s interactions with the State and the repercussions of its repressive politics.

Talking about the purpose behind making the film, Khan says, “Within the women’s movement, the voices of women from the minority and marginalised groups have remained subordinated. This has been particularly true of Muslim women who have been stereotyped in popular imagination. Even the issues that are discussed are largely a reaction to some incident or event like the issuing of a fatwa or the pronouncement of the triple talaq. So the film is an endeavour to project the independent voice of Muslim women who do not belong to upper class and /or urban backgrounds; women who have participated and broadened the horizons of women’s movement.”

Activists from different organisations under the Bebaak Collective take turns to flag some of the key concerns that the women of their community face, which also find space in the film in some way or another. Khairun Nishad of the Ahmedabad-based Parvaaz points out that reforming the personal laws must be a priority because it’s necessary to achieve gender justice. She says, “We have anyway been encountering bias and resistance from within the family and outside. In fact, considering the socio-political climate prevalent these days, now more than ever Muslim woman are at risk of being targeted. Bettering the laws will definitely strengthen their position.”

Reshma from Sahiyar, a Vadodara organisation, vociferously states, “We have three demands – we want social security, our citizenship rights and equality under the law. The implementation of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee in all the states will make a difference. Systemic apathy has really made things hard for the Muslim population. In slums across Gujarat, they are routinely targeted although it may not be as bad as 2002. Destruction of property, too, is not uncommon. Moreover, civic amenities are virtually non existent or in a shambles in most Muslim localities. When it comes to women’s interactions with the authorities, the lesser said the better. Even filing an FIR in case of a domestic dispute is not easy.”

For Azma Aziz of Muhim, which works with Muslim girls and school dropouts in Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh, advocating for better educational opportunities for young girls is quite obviously foremost on her agenda. As do Shadaab Jahaan of Astitva in Saharanpur as well as Nazma Iqbal of Pehchan Samajik Sanstha in Uttarakhand. These committed activists are convinced that education, employment and mobility are crucial to Muslim women realising their true potential.

‘Tiryaaq’, in a sense, gives an outlet to all these “aspirations”. At the same time, it transforms into a platform where the women openly reflect on the problems that afflict their everyday lives – be it the lack of basic facilities, especially in terms of proper schools, Primary Health Centres (PHCs), ration shops and Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) centres in Muslim neighbhourhoods in cities and the rural hamlets, or the social discrimination they are routinely subjected to.

In the film, 12-year-old Rehnuma, who lives in Farrukhabad, which is a mere four kilometers from the high-profile Gandhi constituency of Amethi, relates a chilling tale of discrimination. At a local school in the city, which has an 80 per cent Muslim population, children like her, she says, are treated as “dirty people”. “Our mid-day meal is thrown into our plate from a ‘safe’ distance by the cook, who is a non-Muslim. Even the teacher flings our books at us and teaches from far,” she reveals, questioning innocently, “Hum ko chhoote kyon nahi hain? Kyon kehte hain ki Muslim gande hote hain (Why don’t they come close to us? Why do they say that Muslims are dirty?)”

Apart from accounts of rabid prejudices, there are also anecdotes about empowerment. One such comes from Abida, a woman hailing from Dehradun, Uttarakhand’s state capital. She recalls the time when she couldn’t even imagine stepping out of her home without the ‘burqa’ (veil). Then she linked up with a women’s organisation where she gained awareness regarding her rights and realised the value of freedom. Once she made up her mind to do away with ‘burqa’ she got down to the tough task of convincing her conservative family members. It took some time but Abida has successfully given up the veil.

Insightful, poignant, informative and enthusing, ‘Tiryaaq’ is all this and more. And it has become an inspiring narrative thanks to the work that Khan and the Bebaak Collective have put in. Shikha Pandey, a post-graduate Social Communications Media diploma holder and the editor of the film, says, “We shot the film with 10 organisations working in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. At the end of the entire schedule we had one terabyte of raw footage to work with, which included individual stories, accounts about the formation of the collectives/organisations, as well as focus group discussions that had been conducted between community members and field workers. Each conversation raised different issues stemming from their work and the immediate socio-political environment.”

When she started editing the footage Pandey reveals that she consciously tried to keep a few things in mind, “The idea was to highlight the immediate concerns of the women while keeping in mind the larger picture – the long-term struggles of the community. Besides, we wanted to see if we could establish parallels across geography and chronology from the narratives.”

Who has been credited with directing this film? According to Pandey, it’s a group effort. She elaborates, “Everyone concerned with the project has brought pieces of themselves and their politics to it. Basically, the director is one whose vision drives the team to achieve the final goal, but when the vision is collective and is the product of team effort then such a credit terminology is pretty redundant. As far as the ownership of the film is concerned, it belongs to all the groups that are part of Bebaak Collective; it belongs to each woman who has shared her struggles and

her dreams.” Incidentally, ‘Tiryaaq’ has an element of animation as well, which has been used to “connect the dots between the various themes and opinions”.

Jahaan and Iqbal conclude, “‘Tiryaaq’ is our way of reaching out to people and enabling them to take a closer look at the world of Muslim women. There is a great need to deliberate on our lived realities, and this is our first step.”


For Women Feature Service  @WFS

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#India – Muslim women’s group calls for abolishing oral divorce, polygamy #womenrights

Written by Zeeshan Shaikh | Mumbai | June 18, 2014 2:03 am
The draft law virtually abolishes oral divorce and triple talaq. It states that only the Talaq-e-Ahsan method should be followed.The draft law virtually abolishes oral divorce and triple talaq. It states that only the Talaq-e-Ahsan method should be followed.


The draft law called the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, will be released on Wednesday.

In a move aimed at improving the conditions of Muslim women across the country, the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has finalised a draft Muslim family law which does away with oral divorce, polygamy and also stipulates the mehr amount paid to a woman at her wedding.

The draft law called the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, will be released on Wednesday.

For the past seven years, the BMMA has been working on the draft law in which for the first time Islamic laws pertaining to marriage, divorce and maintenance have been codified. The BMMA is hoping the government uses this draft law to improve the condition of Muslim women in the country.

The draft stipulates that the bride should at least be 18 years of age while the bridegroom should be at least 21 years of age and neither of the two should have a living spouse, thus ensuring that polygamy is stopped. The Islamic laws allow a Muslim man to have upto four wives.

The draft also states that the minimum amount of mehr, which is the paid by the groom to the bride during the wedding, shall not be less than one full annual income of the groom. It further states that if the stipulated mehr is not paid within six months of marriage, then the groom will have to pay double the amount. Presently some grooms give an amount as less as Rs 786 as mehr.

The draft law virtually abolishes oral divorce and triple talaq. It states that only the Talaq-e-Ahsan method should be followed.

In this method once the divorce is pronounced the couple waits for three months in what is seen as a period to sort out differences. This keeps the option of a reunion open and the husband can reverse the process of divorce if both parties agree.

The draft also imposes heavy penalty on offenders, including cancelling of a qazi’s licence for repeat offences in failing to ensure fulfilment of conditions during marriage. It also calls for action under the Criminal Procedure Code for all those who fail to pay maintenance.

Muslims in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act 1936. This law makes the Shariat applicable on Muslims. However this law is not codified and is open to interpretations by local clergy. Various women’s groups have been demanding that the Muslim Personal Law should be codified so that its provisions are clear to everyone.

However, conservative clergy has claimed the codification is tantamount to tampering with the Shariat and the Islamic way of life. The state is also not very keen on taking up the issue for fear of antagonizing the clergy.

Read more here –

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#India – Religion, Feminist Politics And Muslim Women’s Rights

MuslimThe Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the strongest advocate of a uniform civil code while Muslim conservatives are among its strongest opponents. In these excerpts from the just released Women and Law – Critical Feminist Perspectives, edited by Kalpana Kannabiran and published by Sage Publication, writer Zoya Hasan looks at the arguments for and against the enforcement of a state-sponsored civil code and its impact on women.

Historically, the women’s movement has focused its attention primarily on the relationship between women and the state, especially with regard to the rights of women in the legal domain and the relationship of women and politics in relation to political representation. The most important campaigns of the women’s movements have centred on issues of dowry, rape and personal laws and more recently women’s reservation in legislatures.

The last two decades have contributed to the opening up of the “woman’s question” in India in ways that have challenged the existing systemic discriminations and deprivations in a way never envisaged by any of the political tendencies or groups that had hitherto espoused the cause of societal change.

Over the years the debate on religion in the women’s movement has shifted from a position that virtually ignored religion to an attempt to work for religious reform from within. This shift occurred at a time when the communalisation and politicisation of religion was apparent in the series of events, some unintended, others calculated, which helped anti-secular forces to gain a foothold and destabilize the political system. As the issue of minorities catapulted to centre stage Muslim women’s rights became a subject of considerable debate, typically with reference to the status of Muslim personal law and the conflicting claims of personal law, identity and gender. This was most clearly underlined during the Shah Bano controversy resulting in the 1986 Muslim Women’s (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act (MWA), 1986, which denied divorced Muslim women the same rights to maintenance as other Indian women under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The Shah Bano case exemplifies the potential conflict between religion, politics and women’s rights.

The need for a uniform civil code was rarely articulated in the public consciousness as a feminist issue (Credit: Nita Jatar Kulkarni:

The need for a uniform civil code was rarely articulated in the public consciousness as a feminist issue (Credit: Nita Jatar Kulkarni:


At stake in the Shah Bano case was the right of a divorced Muslim woman to claim maintenance from her former husband under the CrPC. Avoiding the constitutional question of equality, the court dilated at length on the compatibility of the CrPC and the Quran. The judgement sparked off a major political uproar which the Rajiv Gandhi government pacified by means of the MWA, to override the judgement and thus exclude Muslim women from the purview of the CrPC, to which otherwise all citizens have recourse. The law created huge problems not only for sex equality but also for non-discrimination on grounds of religion: Muslim women were the only ones denied this remedy under the criminal code.

The backlash provoked by the reversal of the Shah Bano verdict led to the intensification of communal politics in the 1990s and this hardened communal boundaries. While it is doubtful how much Muslim support Rajiv Gandhi garnered in terms of votes in the 1989 Parliamentary Election, his move certainly alienated a large section of the Hindu community, especially the media and middle-classes which saw him as “appeasing” Muslims. From a mere two seats in 1984, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) increased its tally to 89 seats in 1989. Following the passage of the MWA, Hindu organisations stepped up their advocacy of uniform laws, primarily as a means of eradicating the “privileges” of minority men. One of the promises made by the BJP when it came to power in 1998 was the promise to institute such a code. This had politicised the issue resulting in backpedalling by liberals who had earlier favoured it as they are wary that the BJP’s real interest is in imposing a Hindu code…

Uniform Civil Code and Women’s Groups: The BJP is the strongest advocate of a uniform civil code while Muslim conservatives are among its strongest opponents. The Muslim leadership fears that such laws would inevitably lead to uniform cultural practices and alien customs being foisted upon them. In between are many who believe uniform laws are desirable, but that as a country we are not quite ready for it and, therefore, it is best not to raise the issue at this juncture.

The overlaps and convergences between the conservative Hindu and Muslim positions are striking, though, both are overtly communitarian and covertly patriarchal impelled by the need to preserve gender hierarchies as well as retain their own religious authority and autonomy.

In 1998, the BJP had promised to institute a uniform civil code if it came to power. Until then, the party had raised the issue of a uniform civil code principally to embarrass the Congress party which was reluctant to change the status quo in the face of Muslim opposition to it. The BJP was keen to draw a parallel between the Congress party’s capitulation to Muslim conservatives in the 1950s and again in the 1980s in the Shah Bano case to underscore this tendency. Its campaign sought to highlight Muslim appeasement to critique secularism as pseudo-secularism. By proclaiming its own commitment to “secular” principles, the BJP tried to seize the high moral ground to castigate the Congress government for its appeasement of minorities. According to BJP’s way of thinking, leaving Muslim law untouched implies unequal and asymmetrical treatment. This asymmetry has formed the basis for the charge that secularism, especially secular practice, implies pandering to Muslims for electoral gains. Hence, the party criticised the unequal exercise of the power of the state which intervened to reform the Hindu personal laws whereas the same was not done in relation to Muslim personal law. The criticism notwithstanding it also gives the dominant Hindu community a sense of “liberal superiority” over other “unreformed” communities, in particular Muslims.

From the outset, the problem with the uniform civil code debate was its gratuitous emphasis on uniformity which found its reflection in terming it a uniform civil code. Both in judicial pronouncements and public debate, the need for a uniform civil code was justified as essential for national integrity and plural systems of law undermine it. For a long time it was rarely articulated in the public consciousness as a feminist issue.

It became a debate about uniformity versus minority rights, secularism versus religious laws and modernisation versus tradition, in the context of the new nation-state (Rajan 2003). As Tahir Mahmood, an expert in personal laws, points out that the ultimate object of Article 44 (which enjoins the state to move forward towards uniform civil code) is secularity in family law: ‘the call for uniformity is merely the means’. In recent years, the issue has become considerably more complicated with the changing positions of women’s groups and sharp divisions on a range of issues relating to it. The decisive shift occurred in the wake of the Ayodhya conflict and the dramatic growth of the BJP and with it Muslim fears of the imposition of a “Hindu” code.

There is agreement that all religious personal laws are discriminatory and must, therefore, change. There are, however, disagreements over the means to achieve this objective, whether through a state-sponsored civil code or internal reform. The uniform civil code has been discredited because the BJP was using it as a rhetorical device to attack minorities. Aware that legal change cannot be isolated from wider political conflicts and majoritarian politics, women’s groups made an attempt to distance feminist positions from the Hindu right’s demand for a uniform civil code. The women’s movement has since moved away from an either or position on the uniform civil code to a more nuanced position which combines the options of reform from within personal laws, with the formulation of gender-just laws deriving from the concept of a common civil code.

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#India- A report on National minority women’s convention


By Saiyed Danish,,
New Delhi: A national minority women’s convention was held in the Constitution Club’s Annexe hall in the national capital which was presided over by various organizations working for democracy and secularism. It was participated by minority women from all over the country who shared their stories of getting targeted in different communal tensions at different times.
“We have gathered here to let the communal forces know that the minority women of India will not let a fascist and a misogynist Narendra Modi become the Prime Minister of India. We have to stop the advancement of communalism at all cost,” said Shabnam Hashmi, the convener of Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD).

The convention which kicked off at 9:30 am was split between three interactive sessions. The first session saw the victims and eye-witnesses of Gujarat, Muzaffarnagar riots and Dhule shootings telling their tales of horror to the jam-packed hall of attendees and media persons.
Khurshida Khatoon, a riot victim from Muzaffarnagar and a member of Aganbari from her native village of Fugana told TCN, “it feels great being a part of the convention which feels like more of a movement and after seeing so much of solidarity here it seems that my family is not alone.”
Bilkis Bano, Sultana Sheikh from Gujarat, Musarrat Jahan (Ishrat Jahan‘s sister) from Mumbai, Madina from Dhule. Mufia from Gopalgarh, Sobhamani Karkaria from Kandhamal and Tahirun Khatoon from Forbesganj were also present at the convention.
Ishrat Jahan’s mother expressed her views on the convention. She said, “I am here because I have faith in such meetings and I want the scourge of oppression be erased from the country and the culprits of violence be brought to book.” She also said that such gatherings are “necessary for a secular India to thrive.”
The second session was held at 2:30 pm which was titled ‘Breaking the stereotypes,’ in which noted speakers and women activists, journalists and film makers like Albeena Shakeel, Arfa Khanum, Meera Rizvi, Saba Azad, filmmaker Samina Mishra and Seema Siddiqui participated.
“At the time when I joined journalism, women were very few and despite my advanced qualifications I was still expected to work in Urdu journalism only because of the stereotypical tag of Muslim woman I was carrying and I tried equally hard not to be thrown into Urdu services,” said Rajya Sabha TV anchor Arfa Khanam with a smile while addressing the gathering.

Farha Naqvi, writer and activist, while taking dig at BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi said, “He made the entire security apparatus of Gujarat chase one single woman. This is the status of woman in Modi’s state where pregnant women were raped and killed on sword points. It is not just minority women who are targeted by the fascist forces but Christians, adivasis and dalits also bear the brunt of their communal ambitions.”
Mohammad Aamir who works in ANHAD shared his excitement over the convention and said, “This convention is for women, their pain, their aspirations and their longing for truth and justice which they are searching for a long time. Only secularism can keep this country as one and only through a democratic struggle we can achieve this goal of an egalitarian society.”
Aamir was acquitted two years of all terror charges after 14 years in jail. His commendable journey from being a terror accused to a peace activist is powered by the “hopes generated by such conventions.”


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