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Late marriage among Muslim women increasing
By Dushyant Sharma

New Delhi: The trend of late marriage, or no marriage, among socially and economically well-off Muslim women is on the increase. One of the reasons of this trend is their higher education. The other reason is the difficulty in getting a suitable life-partner who may be higher or at least equal from social and educational point of view. After acquiring good education, limited opportunities of better employment and lack of economic security are the other reasons. Surprisingly, this trend is more visible in rural areas of south India as compared to other parts of the country. In those areas more than 20 percent of the socio-economically advanced Muslim women have decided to lead an unmarried life.

A survey carried out involving ten thousand women, 80 percent of whom were Muslims, has revealed this fact. This countrywide survey shedding light on different aspects of the life of Muslim women has recently been brought out in the form of a book titled Unequal Citizens: A study of Muslim women. The survey was jointly conducted by Ritu Menon and Zoya Hasan. 

According to the survey, 20.36% of Muslim women living in rural areas of south India have not been able to get married for some reason or the other.
A question may arise in this connection as to why the cases of unmarried Muslim women are more in rural areas of south India only? Ritu Menon gives some reasons for this. According to her, one of the reasons for this is that a large number of men in these areas are heading for Gulf in search of jobs. Muslim women are also leaving the country for acquiring better education.

Not only this, excessive poverty also is considered to be the reason for their decision not to marry. In any case this fact is emerging as a trend. High education is no doubt one of the reasons but it would be more appropriate to view this trend in the particular background of this category of women.

The survey also exploded the myth that cases of divorce were prevalent among Muslims. According to statistics, only 2.85% women marry for the second time, and that too among those who are very poor, though this percentage is 4.26 and 4.69 in rural parts of northern and southern India respectively. Not only this, the percentage of divorce, desertion of wife and separation from husbands was also not such as to cause alartm. Such cases as recorded in this survey were only one percent. Only two percent of Muslim women married twice.

Ritu Menon points out an important aspect. According to her 'It is generally believed that since polygamy or more than one marriage is allowed among Muslims, there may be too many of such cases but the survey removes this misunderstanding. Percentage of such cases is not so high as to use it against the community.' (Hindustan [Hindi daily] March 9, 2004)

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