Supportive Legislation Needed for Muslim Women

It is important to recognize that the proponents of restricting and suppressing Muslim women's freedom are primarily religious clergy and fanatical followers.

3 mins read
Mehran, Iran [Photo: Mostafa Meraji/ Unsplash ]

In order for any country or society to claim a civilized status, it is crucial that men and women are treated equally and in accordance with the laws of the land. Unfortunately, there are certain countries in the world where Muslim women are considered inferior to men, and their freedom and mobility are severely restricted by discriminatory laws. These restrictions manifest in various forms, such as enforcing specific dress codes, denying women the right to pray alongside men in mosques, withholding driving licenses, and limiting their freedom of movement in certain places.

Countries like Iran and Afghanistan present particularly harsh conditions for Muslim women, which can be described as nothing short of cruel. Although the situation may be comparatively less severe in some other Islamic countries, it remains unfair to women. Even in secular countries like India, Muslim women face numerous restrictions and discriminatory laws.

For decades, countless Muslim women in Islamic countries and even in India have silently endured suffering, fearing the repercussions from religious authorities and male members of their communities. Although some women in Afghanistan and Iran recently protested, demanding their rights and privileges, these movements were brutally suppressed by the respective governments. However, other countries and global citizens mostly observed the situation from a distance, offering little more than lip service. As a result, Muslim women in Iran, Afghanistan, and some other countries continue to struggle in isolation for their freedom and liberty.

It is important to recognize that the proponents of restricting and suppressing Muslim women’s freedom are primarily religious clergy and fanatical followers. They view women as mere “child-bearing machines” and believe that women should primarily exist to fulfill the needs and expectations of men, thereby isolating themselves from public life. However, it is worth noting that many Muslim men are also unhappy with this situation, yet they often fail to voice their support in a meaningful way.

Case study in India:

India is home to the second-largest Muslim population in the world, accounting for 14.5% of its 1.4 billion people. Consequently, India also has the largest population of Muslim women in the world.

India has numerous laws that are detrimental to women. For instance, Muslim men are legally permitted to have up to four wives, displaying a lack of concern and respect for women’s feelings and womanhood. Until recently, a Muslim husband could instantly divorce one or more wives by uttering the phrase known as “triple talaq,” with some men even resorting to this practice without facing their wives directly. Fortunately, the Indian government has now banned this practice, providing significant relief to Muslim women. However, occasional instances of triple talaq still occur in India.

Furthermore, in the case of divorce, a Muslim man retains all financial rights, while a Muslim woman loses her financial rights. This discriminatory law is still in effect in India today. Moreover, if a dispute arises between a husband and wife regarding the custody of their children, a Muslim husband can automatically gain custody, while a Muslim woman must seek court permission to obtain custody.

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

Modi government’s proposal:

The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proposed the introduction of a uniform civil code in India, which would ensure that all citizens, regardless of their religious background, have equal economic, social, and religious rights. Implementing such a law would effectively eliminate the injustices faced by Muslim women in India. However, this proposed uniform civil code has faced opposition from Muslim clergy and various Muslim associations, largely dominated by Muslim men. It remains to be seen whether the Modi government can overcome this opposition and successfully implement the much-needed uniform civil code, despite resistance from certain political parties that seek to appease Muslim men for the sake of their vote bank politics.

Suffering of Muslim women in India:

The poverty levels among the Muslim population in India are a matter of concern. An analysis of the ground realities indicates that these conditions largely stem from the suppression of women’s rights, the limitations imposed on their liberty, and the restrictions on their activities. The educational and awareness levels among a considerable section of Muslim women in India lag behind those of women from other communities.

Consequently, nearly half of the Muslim population in India, mostly Muslim women, are not meaningfully involved in economic activities, and their potential and talents remain deliberately suppressed.

Muslim women in India require sympathy, support, and understanding from all sectors of society. While the proposed uniform civil code holds immense potential to benefit Muslim women, they currently remain conspicuous in India due to their silence, unable to gather the courage to demand their rightful rights.


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 and to promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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