Status of Muslim Women : Ananalysis  of Sachar Committee Report Download

Azra Khanam, P.K. Mathur

Women have generally been subjected to stiffling oppression and stultifying suppression, resulting in their subordination throughout the history irrespective of  socio-economic, demographic and religious differences. The inferior status assigned to women is a result of social evaluation of her biological activities of child bearing and child rearing as the only one’s appropriate to her which give fulfillment in life. The stereotypes are formed on the basis which become part of cultural tradition which validate and justify their inferior status and account for their dependency discrimination and degradation.1

Since men and women considered as two wheels of vehicles of a society, both wheels should work equally to move the vehicle of society. Women constitute approximately half of the world’s population yet they are placed at various disadvantageous positions due to gender differences. They have been victim of violence, exploitation and discrimination. Throughout the world women are still relegated to second class status that makes them more vulnerable to abuse and less able to protect themselves from discrimination. History has evidences that woman have been regarded as the properties of men.2

The modern age is the age of transformation in the status of women all over the world. Women struggled towards new freedom and identities. This age witnessed a surge of consciousness, a proliferation of women’s organization and global conferences and the movement of millions of women towards the process of modernization.3

Index of modernization of any society is the position of its women vis-à-vis men, the more balanced the opportunity structure for men and women, the large the role women have in society and consequently the higher their status. In a developing society it is essential that both men and women play equal and important role in the development efforts. Improvement in inferior status of women, therefore, is necessary for modernization and development. 4

In 1973 the Percy Amendment to U.S. foreign Assistance Act required that U.S. bilateral aid should pay particular attention to promote and project integrating women into development efforts. 5

The U.N. International Year 1975, Decade for women 1976-1985; and U.N. conference in Mexico city, Copenhagen; Nairobi, Beijing all nourished the international connection among women. 6

The women and development lobby have put pressure on National Government to recognize the role of women in combating poverty, illiteracy and high birth rate Governments have also been invited to eliminate all forms of discrimination based on  sex. 7

Inspite of various ameliorative efforts for the improvement in the status of women their condition has not improved much. The U.N. Report on Women in 1995-1996 clearly states that “The world’s 2.8 billion women remain humanity’s largest marginalized group”.8

In 1979 the United Nation adopted the convention on the elimination of all form of discrimination against women. (CEDAW). This is known as the international Bill of women’s right. 9

In 1980 U.N. Report it was reported that women constitute half of the world’s population, perform nearly two third of its work hours, receive one tenth of the world’s income and less than one hundredth of the world’s property. Statistics disclose that women comprise 66 percent of world’s illiterates and 70 percent of world’s poor.10

In India the situation of women is very bleak. Women have been socially, economically, physically, psychologically and sexually exploited sometime in the name of religion and sometimes by the custom and tradition. 11

In 1931 Jawahar Lal Nehru accepted equal political and legal rights of women and introduced the concept of equal obligation alongwith equal rights in fundamental right resolution, passed by Congress in its Karachi session. Nehru held that without economic freedom other aspects of equality would be prove superficial. Women must therefore be trained to participate “In every department of human activity.” 12

The Indian constitution is known to be very comprehensive that recognize the ideal of equality, regards women as equal as men. Not only this women are accorded special protection keeping in view their age old discrimination. The following fundamental rights in the constitution are particularly important from the perspective of human rights of women. Article 14 provide equality before law. It also does not make any differentiation on the basis of caste, creed and sex. Article 37 empowers the state to enact special provisions for the progress of women.13

The women’s question today is no longer an issue confined to the position of women within the family, but also their right to equality with men in different aspects of social life. It is a broader question regarding socio political and economic development. In spite of various protective measures provided by the constitution, women in India have not been emancipated from the age old tradition and customs and therefore they are unable to play any significant role in overall development. 14

As Indian society is trying to combine an ancient civilization with the progress of modern laws, the role of women has been more important for the overall development of India. 15

Muslim women in India are potential catalyst for development. Their emancipation may be a crucial step in the development of community. Their present status by and large reflects the dominance of traditional attitude. An improvement in their present day status will not only contribute in the progress and modernization of the community but also the development and modernization of entire nation.16

The literature on Indian women in general is characterized by three broad tendencies; it ignores Muslim women and considers their status a product of personal law and assumes a sameness in the status and form of oppression, cross community, first the problem of omission with some important exception & most studies take notice of Muslim women. 17

The minority location does qualitatively transform women’s experience and perception in a very distinct way and change in their status and role is central to understanding the development of the community. 18
And since Muslim are in minority in India, their women’s position is even worse because there is an attempt to safeguard the community identity that generally prevent Muslim women to participate in development processes. One manifestation of this is, as pointed out in one study, that majority i.e. 69.75 percent Muslim women do not want to educate their daughters beyond the primary level of education. Further many middle class women who have requisite qualifications are not allowed to seek employment because ‘community respectability’ is likely to get smeared. This has resulted in general backwardness of Muslims and particularly Muslim women in India.19

Sachar Committee report also highlights the role of community identity for the status of Muslim women. I says, “Women in general are the torch bearers of community identity when community identity is seen to be under siege. It naturally affects women in dramatic ways, women sometimes of their own volition sometimes because of community pressure, adopt visible marker of community identity on their person and in their behaviour. The community and its women withdraw into the safety of familiar orthodoxies, reluctant to participate in the project of modernity which threatens to blur community boundaries. It was said that for a large number of Muslim women in India today the only safe place (both in term of physical protection and in term of protection of identity) is within the boundaries of home and community”. 20

Education has always played a very important role in every society.21 It makes an individual to internalize the value and norm of the society and simultaneously offers the specific skilled persons to serve different functions in society.22

The role of education in facilitating social and economic progress is well accepted today. Improvement in education opens up opportunities leading to both individual and group entitlements.23

Muslims are at a double disadvantage with low level of education combined with low quality of education: their deprivation increases manifold as the level of education rises. In some instances the relative share for Muslims is lower than that of schedule caste and schedule tribes who have been victim of long standing caste system.24

Committee has also analyzed educational attainment and deprivation level on the basis of quantitative and qualitative dimensions. Following indicators have been used to analyze the educational status of Muslims’ (I) literacy rate (II) proportion completing specific level of education (III) Mean year of schooling (IV) enrollment rate.

To discuss the educational status of Muslims in general and Muslim women in particular the data produced in census of 2001 is the main source of information. The data produced by 61st Round of National Sample Survey Organization is used for analyzing the educational status of Muslims and comparison has been made among various socio-religious communities. According to 2001 census the overall literacy is 65 percent; male literacy rate is 75.3 percent and female literacy rate 53.7 percent. Literacy rate in rural area is 58.7 percent and in urban area it is 79.9 percent.

Census of 2001 also indicates that literacy rate among Muslim is low i.e. 59.1 percent. The literacy rate among Muslim women is 50 percent. It is also found that female literacy rate is very low and they are educationally more backward as compared to their male counterparts. In states like Andhra Pradesh where Muslim literacy rate is quite significant, it is 68 percent as compared to overall literacy rate of the state (61 percent). They have larger literacy deficit vis-à-vis the average condition prevailing in the state. 25
A comparison across socio religious communities both by gender and by place of residence also reveal constantly lower level of mean year schooling for the Muslims community. It was also explored that the differential in mean year schooling between Muslim boys and girls is higher irrespective of rural or urban population. 26

Although the census of 2001 does not provide the data related to enrollment of children, data provided by National Sample Survey Organization and National Council of Applied Economic Research, Human Development Survey (2004-05) has been used to analyze the rate of enrollment of all socio-religious communities. The committee has also utilized the data produced by 61st Round National Sample Survey Organization (2004-05) and it is compared with 55th Round National Sample Survey Organization (1999-2000) to estimate the changes in enrollment and attendance of children over a period of time. It was concluded on the basis of data that the enrollment ratio has increased in all socio-religious communities. But this advancement is low (65 percent) among Muslims as compared to schedule caste and schedule tribe (95 percent). 27

As far as the enrollment ratio of Muslim female is concerned no statistical data has been analyzed.
The aggregate attainment level of education among Muslim in rural areas is often lower than those of schedule caste and schedule tribes. This is essentially because of the educational attainment of Muslim women in rural areas is lower than those of schedule caste and schedule tribes. The attainment level of education worsens in relative terms  when one moves from lower to higher level of school education. This difference is quite obvious in gender and place of residence as far as the Graduate Attainment Rate (GAR) is concerned. 28

Since independence the gap between Muslim and other socio-religious communities is quite widened steadily to a significantly high level. In case of Muslim women in rural area the overall progress in graduate attainment is very low which indicates that the females in rural areas are more deprived from higher education, specially Muslim female are educationally more backward as compared to males.29

Muslims lag behind in terms of graduate attainment rate as compared to schedule caste and schedule tribes. This gap is more wide between Muslim men and women as compared to other socio-religious communities. Therefore, Muslim women are far behind as compared to men. 30

As far as post graduate diploma course is concerned except in post graduate diploma courses the percentage of Muslim girls is lower than Muslim boys in all courses.31

The drop out rate is high among Muslims, because there is common belief that Muslims parents feel that education is not important for girls and it may instill wrong set of values. Even if girls are enrolled they are withdrawn at an early age to marry them off. This lead to higher drop-out rate among Muslim girls. The other reason cited for the high drop out rate among Muslim girls is related with the non-availability of schools within easy reach for girls at lower level of education, absence of girl hostel, absence of female teacher and non availability of scholarship as they move up the educational ladder. 32

Economy and Employment
Availability of employment provides an individual and his/her family with purchasing power enabling his/her to acquire subsistence as well as consumption goods to satisfy the basis needs, comforts and leisure. 33

To summarize the economic and employment status of Muslim workers at all India level data of National Sample Survey Organization (61st round) has been used.

The economic status has been discussed on following basis:
1.         Work participation and employment rate
2.         Type of enterprises Muslims are involved in and location of work.
3.         Industrial and occupational desirability of the work force.
4.         The level of earning security of employment and employment condition. 34

Work Participation Rate

Work participation rate provide an idea of the extent of participation in economic activity by a specific population. As national ability to find work is a function of assets and opportunities of work available, women belonging to well endowed households may not participate in the work available, because there is no compelling economic need to do so. 35

The work participation rate among Muslims is lower as compared to other socio-religious communities both in rural and urban areas. Aggregate works participation rate in economic activity by women is low in Muslim community. The work participation rate among Muslim women is much lower than that of women belonging to upper caste Hindu households where there are hardly any socio-cultural constraints in work. 36

Overall, 44 percent of women in the prime age group of 15-64 years in India participate in work force while 85 percent of men do so. However, on an average the workforce participation rate among Muslim women is only about 25 percent. In rural areas, 70 percent of Hindu women participate in the workforce while only 29 percent of the Muslim women do so. Even upper caste Hindu women in rural area have a higher participation rate which stands at 47 percent. The lower participation of women in rural area is partly explained by the fact that Muslim in general and Muslim women in particular are less likely to engage in agriculture. The work participation rate for women in urban area is even lower (18 percent), presumably because work opportunities for women within the household are limited. Such opportunities may be somewhat higher in rural area with ownership (though limited) of land.

As far as concentration in self employment related activities is concerned Muslims have fairly high concentration in self employment activities. Muslims share constitute 61 percent as compared to 55 percent Hindus engaged in self employment. 37

Muslims have very low share in regular jobs in large private enterprise and this differential is very high between Muslims men and women. The share of Muslim male and female in regular works in public and large private sector jobs is quite low as compared to other socio-religious communities. As compared to other socio-religious communities much largest proportion of Muslims (including both male and female) work in self owned proprietary enterprises in rural area. Similar trend is also found in urban area. 38

Participation of women workers in women-owned proprietary enterprises is significantly higher for Muslims. This implies that the prevalence of own account enterprises run by women is higher among Muslims than in other socio-religious communities. Muslim women are mainly engaged in home based economic activity. They are typically engaged in sub-contracted works with low level of earning. 39

Muslim women workers undertaking work within their own homes is much larger as compared to other socio-religious communities, while the larger engagement in street vending highlights the higher vulnerability of Muslim workers. Concentration of Muslim women in household work is related with constraints that women face even today. Traditional barriers in many cases still prevent women from going out of their homes to work.

The trend is more specific to Muslim community which limits the scope of work women can undertake and they often get in to very exploitative subcontracting relationship. Moreover, women with responsibility for household duties find it difficult to work outside their homes .40

Muslim men have lower earning as compared to Hindus. Women in Muslim community have very low earning in public sector too. Muslim worker have lower earning as compared to Hindu OBCs, schedule caste and schedule tribes.

Muslim men and women are engaged in inferior jobs such as clerical or class IV employee as compared to Hindu men and women. When we analyze the Table- 10.9 of the report we find a very clear picture about the distribution of female workers by place of work for each socio-religious communities. 41

The data show that Muslim women constitute 4.0 percent as compared to 3.2 percent Hindu OBCs who are not having fixed place of their economic activity, while majority of Muslims engaged in economic activity inside their own dwelling which constitute 66.8 percent as compared to 52.1 percent Hindu OBC’s. Muslim females constitute only 6.5 percent as compared 12.4 percent Hindu OBC’s as for as their own enterprise is concerned. More Muslim women are engaged (constituting 6.9 percent) in employee’s dwelling as compared to Hindu OBCs (constituting 5.4 percent). 42

To assess the profile of Muslim women in regard to education and economy the data presented in Sachar Committee Report has been analyzed. The findings of the committee show that Muslims are at double disadvantaged with low level of education combined with low quality of education. Muslim women are educationally backward, and the drop out rate is significantly high among Muslim women as compared to Hindu women and their Muslim male counterpart.

As far as economy and employment is concerned the work participation rate among Muslim is lower as compared to other socio-religious communities Muslim women work  participation rate is much lower than that of Hindu women. The concentration of Muslims is higher in self employment activities and this share is significantly high also among Muslim women. Muslim women have lower level of earning. Therefore, on the basis of information given in the report it may be concluded that in general Muslim are economically and educationally more backward and the condition of Muslim women is very bad as they are educationally and economically more backward as compared to Muslim men and Hindu women.

1.         Hameeda Naeem, 2005, “The Problem of Muslim Women in India Special Focus on Kashmiri Women” in Women and Gender Justice (ed) by Asghar Ali Engineer, New Delhi, Kalpaz Publishers. P. 345
2.         Nevidita Giri, 2006, “Laws Institution and Women Right in India” in Laws Institution and Women’s Right in India (ed) by Tapan Biswal, New Delhi, Viva Book Pvt. Ltd. P. 301
3.         Janet Mancini Billson, Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, 2005, “The Twentieth Century as a Transformative Time for Women”, in Female Well-Being (ed) by Janet Mancini Billson and Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban. New York, Zed Books ltd. P. 3
4.         Archana Chaturvedi, 2003, Encyclopedia of Muslim Women, New Delhi, Common Wealth Publishers, P. 2
5.         Zanic Kandiyoti, 1991, Women Islam and State, London, MacMillion Press P. 15
6.         Nevdita Giri, 2006, “Laws Institution and Women’s Right in India” in Laws Institution and Women’s Right in India (ed) by Tapan Biswal, Opp. Cit page. 302
7.         Sushila Aggarwal, 1988, Status of Women, Jaipur, Printwell Publishers. P. 15
8.         Nivdita Giri, 2006, “Laws Institution and Women’s Right in India” in Laws Institution and Women’s Right in India (ed) by Tapan Biswal, Opp. Cit page. 302
9.         Ibid, P. 305
10.       A. S. Anand, 2003, Justice For Women, New Delhi, Universal Law Publishing Company P. 16
11.       Nevdita Giri, 2006, “Laws Institution and Women’s Right in India” in Laws Institution and Women’s Right in India (ed) by Tapan Biswal, Opp. Cit P. 302
12.       P.K. Tondon, 1988, Status of Women in Contemporary World, New Delhi, Commonwealth Publishers. P. 1
13.       Nevdita Giri, 2006, “Laws Institution and Women’s Right in India” in Laws Institution and Women’s Right in India (ed) by Tapan Biswal, Opp. Cit P. 307-308
14.       Sushila Aggarwal, 1988, Status of Women, Jaipur, Printwell Publishers. P. ix
15.       Nandini Upreti, 1988, “The Changing Status of Women in India Constitutional Provision and Social Reality” in Status of Women (ed) Sushila Aggrwal, Jaipur, Printwell Publishers, P. 13.
16.       Sushila Jain, 1988, “The Process of Modernization in India and the Status of Muslim Women” in Status of Women (ed) Sushila Aggrawal opp cit. p. 78.
17.       Zoya Hasan and Ritu Menon, 2005, In a Minority, London, Oxford University press, P. 3.
18.       Andra Beitelle, 1975, “The Position of Women in Indian Society” in Indian Women (ed) Devki Jain, New Delhi, Publication Division Ministry of Information Broadcasting Government of India, P. 63.
19.       Asghar Ali Engineer, 2005, Islam Women and Gender Justice, New Delhi, Kalpaz Publishers. P. 348
20.       Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India; A Report, Novemebr, 2006, New Delhi, Prime Ministers High Level Committee Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, P. 13.
21.       Safeeq-u-Zama, 2001, Problem of Minority Education in India, Hydrabad, Ramkrishnan Book Link, P. 1.
22.       Rashid Shaz, 1986, “The Cultural Problem of Muslim in India” in Muslim Minority Procedure of Sixth International Conference of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Reyadh. P. 412
23.       Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India; A Report Novemebr, 2006, New Delhi, Prime Ministers High Level Committee Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, P. 50
24.       Ibid, P. 50
25.       Ibid, P. 55
26.       Ibid, P. 56
27.       Ibid, P. 59
28.       Ibid, P. 61
29.       Ibid, P. 67
30.       Ibid, P. 67
31.       Ibid, P. 70
32.       Ibid, P. 85
33.       Ibid, P. 87
34.       Ibid, P. 88
35.       Ibid, P. 89
36.       Ibid, P. 89-90
37.       Ibid, P. 91
38.       Ibid, P. 92
39.       Ibid, P. 95
40.       Ibid, P. 96
41.       Ibid, P. 105
42.       Ibid, P. 210