In a bid to encourage more Muslim women to become boxers, the All India Boxing Association has revoked an old rule of disallowing women boxers to wear hijabs. It also indicated that the boxers may be able to wear their respective national colours on their shorts and vests as long as it complies with the official guidelines. The executive committee had a meeting in Istanbul last week after which the latest amendments in rules have come through.

The association members’ reason for not allowing hijabs earlier was because the fabric of the hijab “was not designed to fit the body and had potential to come off and interfere in the competition.”

“Earlier also, women had to wear a net gear under their headgear so that their hair do not fall out. I have seen many boxers from countries like Syria, Iran and Morocco who wanted to box and had to shift to some other country,” said Shiv Singh, former national women’s chief coach, IE reported.

However, the newly-made “hijabs and full body form-fitting uniforms” are designed to “not compromise the competition and therefore the health of the boxers”. “Technically speaking, it will be like a cloth connected to the T-shirt and it will not hamper their movement,” added Shiv.

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With this development, boxing has got a spot among sports like football, basketball and fencing which currently allow women athletes to compete wearing hijab at the International level and the Olympics.

2011 Junior World Champion Nikhat Zareen feels lucky as she always had her parents’ support to let her compete in T-shirt and shorts. “My father supported me in this journey as he understood the requirement for boxing, being a sportsperson himself. When I was young, a lot of friends and relatives would tell my father to make me stop the sport but he made sure that I fulfilled my dream,” the 22-year-old told The Indian Express on Monday, shortly after AIBA approved new uniforms for female boxers to wear for religious reasons.

“There are women boxers in India as well as other countries, who wanted to compete but could not because of the previous rule. It is up to an individual to make a choice.”

“There are women boxers in India as well as other countries, who wanted to compete but could not because of the previous rule. It is up to an individual to make a choice. I believe this rule change will inspire more Muslim women to continue their career,” added Zareen, who won the 51kg gold at the Strandja invitational last week.

Five-time champion Zaina Nassar, who was allowed in National meets to compete but couldn’t appear internationally, said in the AIBA statement, “I am proud, as a Muslim-female boxer, to see the positive changes the International Boxing Association is doing for the best interest of its athletes.”

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