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New Trend: Muslim women in India defy tradition -and men – to be judges

The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) is training its first intake of 30 women in Koranic law, constitutional law and gender rights

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Muslim women in India. Image source: www.youtube.com

– by Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Barring the stereotype, an Indian Muslim women’s rights organisation is training women to be qazis, or judges, a role traditionally reserved for men, amid growing demand for more representation for women.

The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) is training its first intake of 30 women in Koranic law, constitutional law and gender rights. This will be a year-long program that aims to produce a steady stream of female qazis across India, its co-founder said.

The Indian constitution allows Muslims, the country’s biggest religious minority, to regulate matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance through their own civil code.

The qazi, usually a hereditary title, plays an important role by solemnising marriage and finalising divorce and settlements.

“Traditionally, qazis have all been men, and their judgment has never been questioned, even if many are unfair to women,” said Zakia Soman, a co-founder of BMMA in Mumbai.

“But it’s important to have women hear and represent women who are in a vulnerable position. Besides, there is no bar on women qazis as per the Koran,” she said.

Dr Hina Zaheer Naqvi, first woman qazi in Uttar Pradesh. Image source: www.india.com
Dr Hina Zaheer Naqvi, first woman qazi in Uttar Pradesh. Image source: www.india.com

The move comes at a time of growing dissent against laws that activists say discriminate against Muslim women. A survey by BMMA last year showed more than 90 percent of Muslim women want to end the “triple talaq” divorce tradition and polygamy.

Last month, the Supreme Court said it would examine how far it could interfere in Muslim laws, as it heard a plea- to end the practice allowing Muslim men to divorce their wives by saying “talaq” three times.

Muslims make up 13 percent of India’s 1.2 billion population, yet government data show they are among some of the most excluded and marginalised communities.

The women being trained to be qazis are largely community workers and activists from states including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Bihar, Soman said.

There are some female qazis in Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia.

Women qazis in India can help prevent child marriage, ensure that a woman marries willingly and that a divorce is only granted after a period of reconciliation, and with fair terms for the woman, Soman said.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a non-governmental institution that oversees the application of Muslim personal law in the country, has criticised the female qazis.

“Women don’t have the right to be a qazi,” said Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali, secretary of AIMPLB.

“Besides, there is no need – there are enough men who are qazis. So it’s completely unnecessary,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But female trainee Safia Akhtar said there was a need for women qazis.

“There are many grave injustices against Muslim women, and we deserve a say in matters that concern us,” said Akhtar in the city of Bhopal. “If women can be prime ministers and pilots in this country, then why can’t we also be

“If women can be prime ministers and pilots in this country, then why can’t we also be qazis?” (Reuters)

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India to Launch Electronic Intelligence Satellite Soon

In January, the space agency launched a defence imaging satellite Microsat R for the DRDO

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TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is shown in this conceptual illustration obtained by Reuters on March 28, 2018. NASA sent TESS into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. VOA

India on April 1 will launch an electronic intelligence satellite Emisat for the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) along with 28 third party satellites and also demonstrate its new technologies like three different orbits with a new variant of PSLV rocket, ISRO said on Saturday.

According to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), a new variant of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket will first put the 436 kg Emisat into a 749 km orbit.

After that, the rocket will be brought down to put into orbit the 28 satellites at an altitude of 504 km.

This will be followed by bringing the rocket down further to 485 km when the fourth stage/engine will turn into a payload platform carrying three experimental payloads: (a) Automatic Identification System (AIS) from ISRO for Maritime satellite applications capturing messages transmitted from ships (b) Automatic Packet Repeating System (APRS) from AMSAT (Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation), India – to assist amateur radio operators in tracking and monitoring position data and (c) Advanced Retarding Potential Analyser for Ionospheric Studies (ARIS) from Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) – for the structural and compositional studies of ionosphere, the space agency said.

The whole flight sequence will take about 180 minutes from the rocket’s lift off slated at 9.30 a.m. on April 1.

The 28 international customer satellites (24 from US, 2 from Lithuania and one each from Spain and Switzerland)- will weigh about 220 kg.

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“It is a special mission for us. We will be using a PSLV rocket with four strap-on motors. Further, for the first time we will be trying to orbit the rocket at three different altitudes,” ISRO Chairman K. Sivan had earlier told IANS.

The PSLV is a four-stage engine expendable rocket with alternating solid and liquid fuel.

In its normal configuration, the rocket will have six strap-on motors hugging the rocket’s first stage.

On January 24, the ISRO flew a PSLV with two strap-on motors while in March, it had four strap-on motors.

The Indian space agency also has two more PSLV variants, viz Core Alone (without any strap-on motors) and the larger PSLV-XL.

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The ISRO selects the kind of rocket to be used based on the weight of satellites it carries.

The ISRO will also be launching two more defence satellites sometime in July or August with its new rocket Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).

In January, the space agency launched a defence imaging satellite Microsat R for the DRDO. (IANS)