Indian Women Use Sharia Law To Fight For Gender Equality In Court System

Huff Post: by Heather Mcllvaine—

“Clergy are not open to reform experiences which are pro-women,” wrote Solanki. “Muslim women in Pakistan enjoy more legal protection than Indian Muslim women.”

MUMBAI, India (RNS) Khatoon Shaikh had no formal education, never worked outside the home and lived in the kind of neighborhood that many people might call a slum. But when Shaikh witnessed her sister-in-law victimized, first at the hands of a violent husband, and again by a patriarchal justice system, she took charge. Shaikh started her own Shariah adalat, a court based on Islamic law, just for women. “We needed a place where women’s voices could be heard,” the mother of seven said. That was 20 years ago. Since then, the court has moved from Shaikh’s home to a two-room office in the north Mumbai neighborhood of Bandra. And it now operates within a broader organization called BMMA, or Indian Muslim Women’s Movement, which Shaikh helped form in 2007. But Shaikh is setting her sights still higher: By the end of this year, BMMA plans to bring her vision for a gender-equal Shariah law all the way to the Indian Parliament. “We want to challenge the legal concept of Shariah law and reclaim it for ourselves,” said Noorjehan Safia Niaz, one of the co-founders of BMMA who is drafting the bill. She has worked as an adjudicator in Shaikh’s all-female court since its inception. In India, all Muslims are entitled to resolve issues of family law — marriage, divorce and questions of inheritance, alimony and child support — according to Shariah, the moral and religious code described in the Quran. This right has been guaranteed since 1937, when Muslims sought to legitimize and protect their identity in India, which is majority Hindu. And it was followed two years later by a second act regulating the use of Shariah in Muslim family law.



Categories: Asia, India, Sharia, Women

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