India May Allow Women Haj Pilgrims To Travel Without Male Guardian

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New Delhi: Women over the age of 45 and travelling in groups of four will be able to go for the Islamic haj pilgrimage without a male guardian next year, if the government adopts proposed reforms.

Women meeting these criteria will no longer have to be accompanied by a mahram, or close male relative, such as a father, husband, brother or son, a government-appointment panel recommended in the country’s first haj policy review.

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Nearly half of an estimated 170,000 pilgrims who went for the annual religious celebration in Saudi Arabia from India this year were women, officials said. The panel of bureaucrats and intellectuals was appointed by the ministry of minority affairs to review India’s haj policy for the first time.

Officials from the ministry, which will decide whether to adopt the recommendations, were not available for comment. The policy would cover the next five years from 2018 and is in line with Saudi Arabia’s haj requirements.

Women’s rights campaigners welcomed the proposal but said it did not go far enough. If the new rule is implemented, solo women will no longer have to pay private tour operators to provide them with a mahram for a fee of Rs 10,000 ($153.29), campaigners said.

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