Muslim Women in India : Seema Kazi
A report on the status of Muslim women in India by Seema Kazi. This study was sponsored by Minorities Rights Group International and published in 1999.
You can find the pdf link below. Here we present conclusion from the full report:
On the completion of five decades of independence, women in Muslim communities face considerable challenges as citizens of India and as members of India's largest minority. Their poor socio-economic status reflects a lack of social opportunity which, though not a feature exclusive to Muslim women, is exacerbated by their marginal status within an overall context of social disadvantage for most Indian women. This point was highlighted in a study of 39 districts in 1981 (where the population of Muslims ranged from 20 per cent to 95 per cent - which could be considered a fairly representative sample of the status of Muslims in India). In the study, the literacy rate of Muslim women was found to be 21.91 per cent - lower than even the poor national average of 24.82 per cent.
According to government reports, Muslim women are among the poorest, educationally disenfranchised, economically vulnerable, politically marginalized group in the country. In 1983, the Gopal Singh Committee instituted by the government, declared Muslims as a "backward" community in India. A central feature of this "backwardness" is their exceedingly poor socio-economic status, particularly of Muslim women. Most Muslim women remain "invisible" workers in the informal economy. The Muslim share in public employment is less than 3 per cent. Within this picture of marginalization, it is a predictable certainty that the corresponding figures for Muslim women are further skewed towards the bottom. A lack of information on Muslim women contributes to the reinforcement of cultural stereotypes, serving to obfuscate their life experiences and struggles. Consequently, the notion that Muslim women's status in India is attributable to certain intrinsic, immutable "Islamic" features or that their social status derives solely from Muslim laws, is widely prevalent.
On the other hand, the appropriation of Muslim women's issues by a vocal and politically influential male Muslim constituency for political purposes poses a considerable challenge to Muslim women's legal empowerment. This was highlighted during the Shah Bano case and the passage of the Muslim Women's Bill in 1986. In a context where the Shari'a is used to justify women's subordination, it is imperative for Muslim women in India to enter the discourse on the Shari'a with reference to personal law, and challenge their historic marginalization from religious knowledge. Furthermore, it is crucial for Muslims "women and men" to debate among themselves the possible reasons and remedies for their poor status as citizens of India.
The political ascendence of the Hindu right-wing and its inherent link between politics and religion has threatened India's secular fabric. The rise of communal violence in the last two decades has undermined secular law and violated constitutional ideals of religious non-discrimination, protection of human rights, implementation of social justice and the equality of all Indian citizens as well as principles of international human rights law. Right-wing illiberalism, communal prejudice and intolerance of diversity bodes ill for all Indian women; in the case of Muslim women it heightens physical and economic insecurity, limits possibilities of renegotiating their status with Muslim men and precipitates Muslim militancy.
The lack of social opportunities for Muslim women is a crucial issue needing urgent action. An improvement in literacy rates would directly influence Muslim women's socio-economic and political status as citizens of India.
The acknowledgement of the universality of women's rights by the international community is relevant to the debate on Islam and women's rights, particularly with reference to women's rights in the family. The formation of forums and associations of Muslim men and women's initiatives in the 1990s is an important step towards facilitating public debate on Muslim women's issues. Muslim women and men must collaborate with individuals and organizations who are committed to the realization of women's human rights. The alliance of Muslim women with the women's movement in India, as well as movements for secularism, democracy and human rights, are crucial for forging a common front against forces opposed to women's self-determination.
Download pdf of full report here: www.minorityrights.org/download.php?id=130