Haj 2018: First Indian Woman Officer Appointed by Government to Accompany Female Pilgrims Travelling Without Their Male Partners or ‘Mehram’
Image used for representational purpose only (Photo Credits: PTI)

New Delhi, June 14: For the first time in India, a woman officer has been appointed by the Indian Ministry of Minority Affairs to accompany 1,300 women Haj pilgrims who will travel without their male companions or mehram at the end of June this month. According to a news report in The Times of India, the woman officer Mona Benazir, who works in the defence accounts department, has applied for the position. On being interviewed by the ministry on her keenness for the job, Benazir was quoted as saying, "A post such as this one is prestigious, and to be able to represent India in a foreign location is a matter of honour. As a result, I applied and was selected after being interviewed by the ministry."

She added that she would not perform the Haj herself. “I will be on duty, and I am not supposed to perform the Haj,” she said. She commented that the mandate includes facilitating safe and trouble-free pilgrimage for the women who travel without their mehram. It involves helping people who have lost their travel papers, or who need any special assistance. The officials will be representing the Government of India and will be working through the Consul General of India in Jeddah.

Benazir is the first Indian woman who has been assigned the work and will accompany other male officers to Jeddah; she will stay there for around two months, during which pilgrims will undertake the Haj. Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was quoted in the report saying,"This is the first time, ever, that a woman has been appointed Haj officer. Our purpose was to pick a woman so that she would be able to assist other unaccompanied women who will travel on the annual pilgrimage."

In the year 2017, the Indian government for the first time decided to allow women pilgrims over the age of 45 to visit the Mecca without male companions in a group of four.