Supportive Law Needed For Muslim Women – OpEd


Any country or society can claim status as civilized one, only if the men and women are treated equally and on par as per the law of the land. Of course, there can be instances, where some section of the people may harass women in one form or the other, whatever may be the law of the land. In such condition, those who harass women would be considered as punishable law breakers, in countries where the laws do not permit unequal status between men and women in any way.

Unfortunately, there are some countries in the world, where Muslim women are looked upon as if they are inferior to men and their freedom and movement are severely restricted by the law of the land. The restrictions are in various forms and methods such as insistence on dress code, lack of liberty to pray in mosques along with men, denial of driving licences and even restricted freedom of movement in some places.

Particularly in countries like Iran and Afghanistan, the conditions faced by Muslim women are extremely hard, which can even be termed as cruel. In some other Islamic countries, it may be less severe but nevertheless conditions and practice are not fair to women. Even in a secular country like India, Muslim women suffer from several restrictions and discriminatory laws against them.

For several decades, thousands of Muslim women in some Islamic countries and in country like India have been silently bearing the brunt of suffering, fearing the clergies and men folk belonging to their religion. While some women in Afghanistan and Iran protested recently and they demanded their due rights and privileges, the protest movement were suppressed severely by the government . However, other countries and world citizens mostly watched the situation in Afghanistan and Iran from the gallery and restricted their reactions to mere lip sympathy. In other words, the Muslim women in Iran, Afghanistan and some other countries remain isolated in their struggle for freedom and liberty.

It is known that those who want the Muslim women’s freedom to be restricted and suppressed are the clergies and fanatic religious followers. They seem to view women as if they are only “child bearing machines” and largely as those created by God to satisfy the needs of men and their expectation women have to isolate themselves from public view. . Of course, there are many Muslim men who are unhappy about this situation but they do not seem to lend their voice of support in any meaningful way. 

Case study in India

India has the second largest Muslim population in the world, with 14.5% of the Indian population of 1400 million being Muslims. Obviously, India has also the largest Muslim women population in the world

There are many laws in India which are against women. For example, Muslim men can have four wives at any time, which shows lack of concern and care about the feelings of women as well as indicate the lack of respect for womanhood. This practice is permitted by law in India as of today. 

Until recently, the law was that the Muslim husband can divorce one or more wives by simply stating what is known as triple talaq and some men are reported to have said triple talaq even without seeing the wife face to face. This practice has been stopped now in India by the present government, which has given great relief to Muslim women. However, it is reported that such practice continues to be prevalent occasionally in India.

In case of divorce, Muslim man does not lose any financial rights, whereas if a Muslim woman were to divorce the husband, she would lose the financial rights. This is the law in India today.

In the case of any dispute between husband and wife with regard to the children, the Muslim husband can straightaway have the custody of the children, if he would so desire, but Muslim woman need to approach the court to get permission to have the custody of children.

These are only a few examples of the prevailing unjust laws and obnoxious practices in India against Muslim women.

Modi government’s proposal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has proposed to introduce a uniform civil code in India, where all citizens would have same law with regard to economic, social and religious rights. If such law were to be enacted, it would certainly ensure that injustice done to Muslim women in India would be wiped out in one stroke.

However, this proposed uniform civil code has been opposed by Muslim clergies and several Muslim associations. It remains to be seen whether Modi government would be able to implement much needed uniform civil code in the face of opposition not only from Muslim clergies but also from a few political parties.

Muslim women suffer in India

The poverty level amongst Muslim population in India is a matter of concern. A careful analysis of the ground realities would indicate that such conditions are largely due to the suppression of women’s rights and liberty and restriction of their activities. The educational level and awareness level of amongst considerable section of Muslim women in India are not on par with the other women in the society.

In effect, nearly half of the Muslim population in India (mostly Muslim women) are not part of economic activities in any meaningful way and their potentials and talent remain deliberately suppressed.

Muslim women in India need sympathy, support and understanding from all quarters. Today, even as a uniform civil code is being proposed and it would benefit the Muslim women enormously, Muslim women remain conspicuous in India by their silence, unable to gather courage to demand their legitimate rights.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

One thought on “Supportive Law Needed For Muslim Women – OpEd

  • July 1, 2023 at 6:30 am

    ‘Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has proposed to introduce a uniform civil code in India, where all citizens would have same law with regard to economic, social and religious rights. If such law were to be enacted, it would certainly ensure that injustice done to Muslim women in India would be wiped out in one stroke.’

    The civil code is about process. There are heritage based laws that are facilitated and protected by Human Rights / Equal Opportunity laws. These are often protected by Succession laws. In Northern Sri Lanka where Uniform Civil Procedure Code is applicable to process, the court was known to indiscriminately mix the two


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