The hijab row, decoded

The Karnataka High Court has upheld the state government’s ban on the wearing of hijab (head-scarf) by students in school. The three-judge bench pronounced judgment on a petition filed by some Muslim girl students seeking protection of their right to wear a head scarf in educational institutes. The girls have now approached the Supreme Court to challenge the high court decision.

What the judgement says

“Wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith. The prescription of school uniform is only a reasonable restriction…”

“Prescription of school dress code to the exclusion of hijab, bhagwa, or any other apparel symbolic of religion can be a step forward in the direction of emancipation and more particularly, to the access to education.”

“A person who seeks refuge under the…Constitution has to demonstrate not only essential religious practice but also its engagement with the constitutional values.”

“Merely stating that wearing hijab is an overt act of conscience and therefore, asking them to remove hijab would offend conscience, would not be sufficient for treating it as a ground for granting relief.

How it all began

In December, six girls in a school in Udupi were turned out of class for wearing a hijab over their prescribed uniform. The girls say they had been wearing the hijab earlier and senior students too who had worn it did not seem to have caused any trouble with the school administration. They say they have a fundamental right to both education and to practice their religion.

With the girls denied access to their classrooms, the issue snowballed with other girls in other institutions taking to the hijab, and being denied entrance.

Meanwhile, some students began wearing saffron scarves. Students in hijab were heckled and the state government in February issued a ban on the wearing of any overt religious garments, hijab or saffron scarves. The girls filed a petition against this order in the state high court.

What next

Through their advocate Anas Tanwir the girls have filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court against the high court verdict. They say that denying them access to classrooms has no legal basis and that college development committees do not have the power to regulate the wearing of a uniform.

Freedom of conscience forms a part to the right to privacy already upheld by the Supreme Court in the 2017 Puttuswamy judgment that ruled that “the freedom of the belief or faith in any religion is a matter of conscience falling within the zone of purely private thought process and is an aspect of liberty”.

In a separate petition, a 66-year-old woman has also filed an appeal against the high court judgment. “The teenage girls covering themselves modestly while going to receive education pose no threat to public order,” it says.

The Supreme Court has said it will list the pleas after the Holi vacation.


British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed in Iran for six years on unsubstantiated charges of spying while on holiday with her 22-month-old daughter to visit her parents. For six years, her husband Richard Ratcliffe campaigned tirelessly for her release, including going on a hunger strike for 21 days in November 2021.

On March 17, Nazanin, 43, was reunited with her family when her flight touched down at RAF Brize Norton. “Is that mummy?” asked seven-year-old Gabriella before rushing into her arms.

Human Rights Watch has asked Iran to end its “despicable practice of detaining dual nationals as geopolitical bargaining chips” and release all those wrongfully detained.


Women in India are marrying later and 22.1 was the average age of marriage for women in 2019. This is down from 21.2 in 2011. Yet, 37% of all women still marry before they turn 21 with the largest number of before-21 marriages occurring in West Bengal (49.6%), followed by Madhya Pradesh (43.5%) and Bihar (40.2%).

Source: Sample Registration System, office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner. See more here.


The death of Mina Swaminathan at the age of 89 on March 14, leaves a void in the field of early childhood care and development. Swaminathan was the architect of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), the most comprehensive child care service in the developing world. She was a tireless activist for women’s equality and involved in setting up such initiatives as the Centre for Women’s Development Studies.



The Kerala high court has ruled that production houses associated with the Malayalam film industry should set up internal complaints committees as mandated by India’s sexual harassment law. The order is a ‘first of its sort’ for the Malayalam film industry and comes in the wake of a public interest litigation filed by the Women in Cinema Collective, reports Ramesh Babu

Mob violence by women

In a horrific incident, a 45-year-old man has been beaten to death by a group of women after he allegedly attempted to rape a five-year-old girl in Tripura’s Dhalai district. The incident took place in the Gandacherra police station area

Holding up half the sky

Britannia Industries has said it aims to improve its diversity ratio to 50% by 2024 by increasing the participation of women in its factory workforce. At present 38% of the fast moving consumer goods company’s factory workforce is women.


Rx prescription: Not looking good

Several studies have focused attention on the gender gap in healthcare, not only in terms of salary and leadership positions but also that female physicians in academic medical centres are also less likely to receive professorships or chair promotions, reports Medical News Today.

A new expert opinion paper now warns that female researchers in academic medicine have been falling behind with being published and receiving grant funding during the pandemic. This puts the women at risk of dropping out from the research workforce altogether unless institutes, foundation and funders take action.

Read the paper published in Nature Medicine here.


It’s 2022 and women are still fighting for abortion rights

Republican state representative Brian Seitz has introduced a restrictive abortion law which, if passed, would outlaw medication given to someone with an ectopic pregnancy where a fertilised egg implants outside the uterus.

Meanwhile, reports Politico, Idaho has joined Texas in banning abortion at six weeks of pregnancy and allowing citizens to sue over any violations (though unlike Texas, Idaho will make exceptions for rape and incest). The measure is expected to take effect in April.

Cost of war

Images of a wounded pregnant woman being taken on a stretcher from a maternity hospital in Mariupol after it was bombed by Russia went viral, personifying the horror of the war’s toll on civilians. Associated Press reports that the woman and her baby have both died.

A Sports Bra of our own

Nope, that’s not a typo. “We support women” is the tagline of this soon-to-open bar, or bra, in Portland, USA, that will play only women sports on its screens.


Exactly a week from now, the 94th annual academy awards aka The Oscars will reveal winners and losers. To remember how far the event has come, consider that it took 50 years to even nominate a woman for best director, and another 33 years for one to actually take home a statue. This year, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog is a front-runner and while Campion is the only woman to be nominated twice for best director, of the eight best picture nominees, four have female producers.

Will the Oscars break its best cinematographer gender jinx – no one has ever taken home one, though Rachel Morrison got a nomination for Mudbound in 2018?

Tune in and find out.

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That’s it for this week. If you have a tip or information on gender-related developments that you would like to share write to me at:
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