Education should be priority, not banning of hijab

News: Face coverings with varying levels of restrictions are a fact of life for 58% of Hindus and 88% of Muslim women in India. Imposing them on young girls in educational institutions seems particularly worrisome. This is the reason educational authorities chose to ban the hijab in educational institutes.

Read here: The interpretative answer to the hijab row
What is the earlier incident of demand for removal of the veil or ghunghat?

Manju Yadav, a schoolteacher from Haryana, started a campaign to get women leaders together to abandon their ghunghats. This campaign faced initial hurdles but gained momentum when one of the largest khaps, the Malik Gathwala Khap, asked women to give up ghunghat.

Why mobilization to protest veiling is not easy in the Muslim community?

Even the celebrities like Sania Mirza and Shabana Azmi have faced issues due to religious clothing norms.

Timing of reforms is very important. When women have to select between their own community and education, the former is always given importance. Women Flavia Agnes pointed out that after anti-Muslim riots in Mumbai, Muslim women’s groups canceled anti-domestic violence programs for fear of giving more ammunition to harass Muslim men.

Then Hijab incident has been portrayed as being as essential tenet of Islam. This conflation between religion and dress code can make education difficult for Muslim women.

Read here:  Explained: Freedom of religion and attire
Why education should be given prominence for the empowerment of women, especially Muslims?

Education is crucial for women for resisting gender oppression. For example, about 67% of women with less than class V education practice ghunghat or purdah, as compared to 38% of college educated women. The National Statistical Office estimated gross attendance ratios for Muslim women to be 43% compared to 63% of all Indian women.

The timing of Hijab controversy is incorrect, as schools had been closed for 2 years following the Covid pandemic. This can aggravate inequalities in learning outcomes, which had been highlighted by National Council of Applied Economic Research.  For e.g. 68% of forward caste students aged 8-11 can read short paragraphs compared to 47% of Muslim children.

It is thus time to empower Muslim women by ensuring access to education, employment, and public safety.

Source: This post is based on the article “Education should be a priority, not banning of hijab” published in Indian Express on 26th February 2022.

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