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Where are the Muslim Women in Indian Politics?

Six women talk about the condition of Muslim women's participation in Indian politics, and how it is affecting our society.

Muslim women have faced an identity crisis in politics time and again. This has become a topic of debate and discussion. Five of the 16 Lok Sabhas since Independence have had no Muslim women members, and their number never crossed four in the 543-seat lower house of parliament. One of the main reasons for low political participation of women in politics is the patriarchal structure of society.

"Politics is a dirty field. It is not meant for women. I have been told that women should be confined to their homes in veils", said Ridwana Sanam from Jammu and Kashmir. It is usually recognized by a majority of people that women's role is confined within the walls of a home. Being a woman and a Muslim is a viewpoint where strong cultural, patriarchal values, and norms of the society has a vital role. "Women from Muslim Community are not allowed to move out. We are restrained, a lot for everything", said Amanjahan Khatun from Jharkhand.

According to census 2011, only 22 of 543 members of parliament in the outgoing Lok Sabha are Muslim. Representation of Muslim women in the Parliament is merely 0.7% who comprises 6.9% of the general population. This reflects on how political parties have not taken any steps to fix this misrepresentation in the Lok Sabha.

Rubi Bano from Uttar Pradesh said that our country has always been male-dominated. Even though there is a reservation seat allocated to women, but once in power, the benefits are always taken by men. "Women have no say nor do they take any decisions", added Rubi. Till date, out of 29 states, 24 of them have no Muslim women in the Parliament.

"Presence of Muslim women in the Parliament will be of big help to us. Our generations will gain and the entire atmosphere will improve. It will really have a huge impact. I strongly feel that the entire scenario will change", said Kehkasha Khatun from Uttar Pradesh.

The question of participation came up at the time Shah Bano case during the Triple Talaq debate.

Muslim women lacked a voice on an issue that was regarding their rights. Ahead of the 17th Lok Sabha election, group of Muslim women activists rolled out a 39- point manifesto demanding to restore the rights of all minorities. Unfortunately, none of the political parties paid heed to it.

Video by Video Volunteers Production.

Article by Grace Jolliffe, a member of the VV Editorial Team.

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