India may allow female Hajj pilgrims to travel without male guardian

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Indian women over the age of 45 and traveling in groups of four will be able to go for the Hajj 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 Hajj policy review.

“The mahram rule was there from the very beginning for women — in case they face any difficulty while traveling, it can be taken care of,” said Maqsood Ahmed Khan of the Hajj Committee of India, a government body which organizes the pilgrimages.

“This (dropping of male kin) is an important recommendation,” the chief executive told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Nearly half of an estimated 170,000 pilgrims who went for Haj 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 Hajj 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 Hajj requirements. — Thomson Reuters Foundation

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 $153.29 (Rs10,000), campaigners said.

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette on October 11, 2017.

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