Each and every country in the world has its own fair share of widows who are struggling to survive and look after their children. Some end up living in poverty, while others are either mistreated by society or their own families. As we mark International Widows’ Day 2020 on June 23, we take a look at the problems widows in India face. Also Read - International Widows' Day 2020: History, Significance of The Day And Theme For This Year
The date for International Widows’ Day was formally adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 21, 2010. The purpose of the day was to recognise the problems that widows face at home or at work, and for people to take action and ensure they are provided their rights.
Around the world, widows are treated differently and according to what the society they live in believe. In India, they are again seen in a different light, and some are mistreated by their in-laws, relatives and immediate family members like sons and daughters. Below are some of problems that they face:
1. Mourning Rites:
Some places still practice this where the minute the husband dies, the woman has to follow certain mourning rites like wearing a white sari. Apart from that she is not to use cosmetics, wear bangles or nose rings, flowers, kumkum and jewellery, and she is to avoid social gatherings like weddings and even not visit temples.
2. Remarrying and Prohibition of Remarrying:
There are castes that prohibit a widow from remarrying, and if it is allowed it should be within the family, like with a brother-in-law. If they do not remarry, they are made to live the remainder of their life as an ascetic in some ashram or temple where they are not cared for at all. If they stay on in their late husband’s house, they are ill-treated by the in-laws or even their own sons and daughters.
3. Inheritance Rights:
In a patrilineal and a patriarchal society the women are not treated on equal footing as the men, and apart from being denied a say in matters, they also have no inheritance rights. Despite the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, which allows women to inherit an equal share in the property, many are still denied their legal rights. With no money to support herself, a widow is left to survive on her own and as per the custom, she is not allowed to return to her paternal home.
Since she has no right to her husband’s property, she is often harassed by her in-laws and forced to leave the place she is staying in. She would have to take the legal way to assert her right over her late husband’s property, and it is not so easy if she is uneducated and has no idea about such matters.
4. Economic Problems:
If a widow is not educated, she would have a big problem getting a job that would help her survive, feed and clothe her children. She would either send her children out to work and earn an income, or she would end up prostituting herself just to make ends meet. The latter could add to her problems, as she might end up with a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
5. Victim of Violence:
With her husband no longer there to protect her, a widow can end up becoming a victim of violence. In some areas she is accused of causing her husband’s death, and at other places she is seen as a witch. The accusations often come from male members of the family who want to take over her property. Apart from that she would also face the problem of being raped, beaten and forced into a marriage she does not want.
There are hardly any employment opportunities for widows, and in world where women are still not seen as being equal to men or given the respect they deserve, finding a job can be very difficult.