Sabiha Hussain


The present paper deals with the discourse of the rights of Muslim women in the pre- independence period with particular reference to the Shariat Act 1937 and the Muslim Marriage Dissolution Act 1939 and the socio- historical and political background in the enactment of these Acts. The role of women’s organizations and the women’s movement, community leaders and political parties has been taken into account in dealing with the discourse. Whether the discourse was more to show political strength of the Muslim community or to protect the rights of women? Why was a need for these enactments felt by women’s organizations, the community, national leaders, and reformers? Was issue of gender justice the focus for demanding these enactments by the community leaders and the political parties? The argument which I have tried to put throughout this paper is that these two acts were seen more of maintaining community identity and showing numerical strength for political gains than protecting and rights of Muslim women. To this end, we have tried to capture various debates that took place among the legislators in the assembly, women’s organizations, social reformers, community leaders and so on with regard to application of Sharia. The paper is based on information collected from secondary sources, and analysis is more from a gender rights perspective with a historical and political background.

Author Biography

Sabiha Hussain, Associate Professor Dr., KR Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies Jamia Millia Islamia