More than 47 percent of the total number of pilgrims going for Haj this year are women, which is the highest ever representation of women in Haj from India. Till last year, it was mandatory for a Muslim woman to be accompanied by her husband or a mehram (a person with whom marriage is unlawful) for pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. Not anymore.

The change in Hajj policy has led to a sharp rise in the number of Indian women undertaking the pilgrimage.

More than 47 percent of the total number of pilgrims going for Haj this year are women, which is the highest ever representation of women in Hajj from India, says the ministry of minority affairs.

Till last year, it was mandatory for a Muslim woman to be accompanied by her husband or a mehram (a person with whom marriage is unlawful) for pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. For the first time this year, Indian women will be going on Haj without the company of a male relative.

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The women under the new category need to travel in a group of four and should be over the age of 45 years. Though this regulation (enabling women to perform Hajj without a male relative) was passed by Saudi authorities many years ago and subsequently adopted by many countries, it is being introduced by India from this year.

Of the total of 1,75,025 Indians going for Hajj this year, more than 47 per cent are women, which is a record, said Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi while addressing an orientation camp for Haj officers in Delhi. Of the total number of pilgrims, 1,22,971 are going through the Haj Committee of India while rest of are going through private tour operators (PTOs).

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According to details of pilgrims going through HCOI, statistics of which is maintained by the ministry, the percentage of women pilgrims has been around 45 percent in the last five years. The percentage of women in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 stood at 45.82 %, 45.24%, 45.05% and 45.57 % respectively. Last year, the percentage of women pilgrims going through HCOI touched the 46 % mark, and this year it has risen further to 46.9 percent.

“The number of women pilgrims going for Haj is certainly the highest ever this time,” said a senior ministry official. “We have checked with PTOs also. The total percentage of women has easily crossed the 47 % mark.”

The new category of women which allows women to travel without male relatives is definitely a factor for this rise, he added.

Eleven states are sending a total of 1,308 Indian women for Haj under the new category. Kerala leads the pack, as it is sending 1,124 women, which is more than 85% of the women pilgrims, under the “no mehram” category.

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West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Puducherry, Madhya Pradesh Assam and Uttarakhand are the other states sending women for Haj under this category.

Among the several schools of thoughts in Islam, there are some which prohibit women from travelling alone. Considering the rise in their number and the introduction of “no mehram” category for women pilgrims, Naqvi said the ministry has made elaborate arrangements for their safety and well being this year.

For the first time, women Hajj coordinators and Hajj assistants are being sent to assist women pilgrims, he said. A total of 98 women Hajj officers are being sent to Saudi Arabia for the purpose, a ministry official said. #KhabarLive


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