In Haryana, which has the worst sex ratio in the country and where khap panchayats often flout the laws of the land, women remain underrepresented in almost all walks of life. But some women empowerment groups have courageously taken it upon themselves to stop the regressive practice of women wearing ghungats or veils to hide their faces from the menfolk.
In Faridabad, 47 women sarpanchs and other anganwadi workers from nearby villages took an oath in July 2016 to free women in their villages from the practice of wearing a veil by November this year. This oath was administered by Women and Child Development Project Officer, Meenakshi Chaudhary.
Manju Yadav, who is a lecturer at a local college and an M.Sc. Forensic Sciences graduate, was one of the first women in her village to stop wearing a veil.
Earlier this year, she approached the Deputy Commissioner Chander Shekhar, along with seven female members from her family, to seek his help to free them from the practice of wearing veils. With the help of her family, on April 30th, in the presence of the Deputy Commissioner and the village sarpanch Mahipal Arya, Manju was able to take this step.
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According to reports, Chander Shekar said, “When qualified ladies came forward and urged me to help them lift their ghunghat, that too, in the presence of their male male family members and the sarpanch, I thought the administration should help them. So we administered the oath.”
Manju told The Hindustan Times, ““After we lifted the ghunghat in the presence of Deputy Commissioner sir and the sarpanch, and when I and my sister Anju started building the campaign in our area, some women in the locality complained to our mother-in-law about this.”
When Manju addressed the women sarpanchs in July, she reminded them it’s not just men who are against women but women themselves, who perpetuate the myth that the veil dignifies the wearer.
Nazma Khan, who also ditched the veil recently, is one of the first few Muslims in Faridabad to join this group of strong-willed women in their fight against clothes that restrict a woman’s participation in society.