MUMBAI: Indian women over the age of 45 and travelling in groups of four will be able to go for the annual 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.

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

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2017

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