by Iqra Akhoon

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SRINAGAR: The number of Makkah-bound women Hajj pilgrims not accompanied by Mehram, a blood relative, has gone down. Against 111 women who performed Hajj in 2023 without a mahram, only 37 are going this year, official data suggests.

Since the introduction of the Lady Without Mehram (LWM) category by the Government of India in 2022, aimed at facilitating women’s participation in Hajj without a male companion, a section of women are availing the option.

This was the outcome of the shift in policy by the Saudi Arabian government in 2018, allowing single eligible women to apply for Hajj without a male guardian. Initially, the decision resulted in over 4,000 women from across India, including Jammu and Kashmir, embarking on the pilgrimage. However, the region saw minimal participation, with only one woman opting for the LWM category in 2018, and no participants in 2019 due to various reasons.

The global pandemic further disrupted Hajj in 2020 and 2021, impacting pilgrimage plans worldwide. Nevertheless, in 2022, the region witnessed a modest increase with eight women performing Hajj independently. The following year, 2023, marked a remarkable surge with 111 women from Jammu and Kashmir participating, marking the highest number recorded from the region.

This year’s announcement of 37 women undertaking the pilgrimage without a male guardian underscores the continued momentum.

Women usually form almost half of the overall pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir. In 2023, as many as 12067 pilgrims flew to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj. These included 5369 women. The Hajj 2024 has started and 7028 pilgrims are flying for the pilgrimage. These include 3264 females.


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