Indian Muslim Women’s Movement: For Gender Justice and Equal Citizenship
Date: Wednesday, 9 September 2020
Zakia Soman and Dr. Noorjehan Safia Niaz are co-founders of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) in India and co-authors of the recently published “Indian Muslim Women’s Movement: For Gender Justice and Equal Citizenship.” In this eponymous webinar, they discussed their pioneering activism for equal rights and equal citizenship of Muslim women in India, advocacy strategies, challenges of advocating women’s rights in a Muslim minority context, and linkages with Muslim women’s movements across the globe. They also discussed their strategic litigation efforts in the context of India’s constitutional framework and their recent successes, including the 2017 ruling that banned triple talaq, or unilateral instant oral divorce. Alex McCarthy of Musawah moderated the conversation.
BMMA, a national movement of Muslim Women, describes itself as an autonomous and secular human rights movement that advocates for equal citizenship rights for Muslims in India. BMMA has spent 13 years at the forefront of the human rights movement in India, tackling not just citizenship, but also, the day-to-day issues affecting their community, and building up Muslim women’s leadership therein. This new book is a collection of essays and articles written by Zakia and Noorjehan that have appeared in news outlets and magazines over the years of their struggles. The book provides a glimpse into the collective and tumultuous journey of the women demanding reform in Muslim family law in India and for equal citizenship, and highlights the challenges faced particularly by women. It also celebrates their successes along the way—such as the development of Muslim women’s organising in India, the abolition of triple talaq (or unilateral instant oral divorce), and enabling women’s entry into the mazar (tomb) of Haji Ali Dargah. Their firsthand accounts give us insights into their struggle on the ground of ordinary women, sharing hope and strength, to address discrimination through a shared vision and collective democratic action.
Check out “Indian Muslim Women’s Movement : For Gender Justice and Equal Citizenship” by Dr. Noorjehan Safia Niaz and Zakia Soman at online booksellers such as Amazon, Kobo, GooglePlay, and iBooks.
This webinar was co-hosted by Musawah and Harvard Law School’s Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World. This webinar is also part of Musawah’s Campaign for Justice in Muslim Family Laws.
Zakia Soman is a co-founder of BMMA. She is a strong advocate for the rights of minorities and rights of women across South Asia. She is a member of Saape, South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication, which engages with the issues of excluded communities regionally. She is the national lead on peace, justice, secularism and minorities rights in Action Aid. As convener of Sauhard Manch, she closely works on issues within communalism, secularism, peace, human rights, minorities rights and rights of Muslim women across the country. She is invited to speak and present papers at civil society seminars and meetings regularly. She writes and gets published in various newspapers, magazines and journals on these issues. She has edited a book on Dalit Muslims, which is published by the Indian Social Institute. She has co-edited a volume on peace and justice in South Asia that has been published by Pearson India. She has led a national research on socio-economic condition of Muslims in India, on the communal violence in Gujarat, and with Sauhard Manch, which is currently conducting a national research on the status of Muslim community post Sachar Committee. Zakia holds an M.A and M.Phil in English literature from Gujarat University.
Dr. Noorjehan Safia Niaz is a co-founding member of BMMA, and founder and managing trustee of Ashana Trust. She is an MASW from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (1992). She worked as Development Officer with Mahila Arthic Vikas Mahamandal, a Maharashtra State Government Corporation. Thereafter she joined YUVA as Project Coordinator with special focus on the women’s groups. She was also involved in a research project on ‘Riots, Eviction and Dispossession’. She has worked with SAHARA in Anjuman-e-Islam, an institution working for the educational and social development of the Muslim community. From 1999 till 2008 she worked in Women’s Research and Action Group [WRAG] as Project Coordinator and thereafter as the Co-Director. There she worked on developing educational material on Muslim personal law and also initiated and coordinated the Community Outreach Programme, which worked in 30 communities of Mumbai. Through the years she has concentrated on developing the capacities of marginalised Muslim women, locally and nationally. She is also a visiting faculty with the Centre of Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy; SNDT Women’s University and teaches gender studies and human rights. She has authored a set of 5 booklets on Muslim Personal Law, later translated in Hindi, Urdu and Bengali. She has also co-authored an article titled ‘Muslim Women and Law Reforms: Concerns and Initiatives of the Excluded within the Excluded’ in ‘Lives of Muslims in India – Politics, Exclusion and Violence’ – Edited by Abdul Shaban and published by Routledge. She has published two articles titled, ‘Reservation within Reservation’ and ‘Status of Muslim Women: Efforts at Law Reform in Maharashtra’ in ‘Issues of Indian Muslims’ published by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, 2010.
(Moderator) Alex McCarthy is the Communications Programme Officer at Musawah. She has previously served in communications and advocacy roles in the U.S. Senate and several UK organisations. She is currently an Editorial Co-Coordinator of the Women in Islam journal, published by the SIHA Network.
1) During the webinar, the speakers referred to the following resources:
- Report: ‘No More Talaq! Talaq! Talaq! Muslim women call for a ban on unIslamic practices’: https://bmmaindia.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/triple-talaq-report.pdf
- Summary of findings of the BMMA survey on ‘Seeking Justice Within Family – A National Study on Muslim Women’s Views on Reforms in Muslim Personal Law’: https://bmmaindia.com/2015/08/11/summary-of-the-findings-seeking-justice-within-family/
- Full findings for the BMMA survey on ‘Seeking Justice Within Family – A National Study on Muslim Women’s Views on Reforms in Muslim Personal Law’: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B620GpkWZ9-UQmx1T212WHpWelE/view
- ‘Towards a Muslim Family Law Act? Debating Muslim women’s rights and the codification of personal laws in India’: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09584935.2019.1684444
- ‘The 5 Women Who Led The Fight Against Triple Talaq’: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/here-are-the-women-who-took-their-fight-against-triple-talaq-to-supreme-court-1740412
- ‘Meet the Muslim women who are defying tradition to become qazis’: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/meet-the-indian-muslim-women-who-are-defying-tradition-to-become-qazis/story-ckJI5jdVGgX6LTCvBES7mI.html
- ‘Everything you wanted to know about the CAA and NRC’: https://www.indiatoday.in/india-today-insight/story/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-caa-and-nrc-1630771-2019-12-23
- Other legal struggles and initiatives that BMMA has been a part of include entry into the Haji Ali Dargah mosque, which had not been accessible to women until 2016: ‘After Court Battle, Indian Women Enter Landmark Mosque with Song and Tears’: https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/after-court-battle-indian-women-enter-landmark-mosque-song-and-tears
2) Follow the Harvard Law School Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World on Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for their mailing list to get latest updates and event announcements at https://www.pls.law.harvard.edu.