23rd June – International Widows Day was introduced to address poverty and injustice faced by widows and their children in many countries. It was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2010 and is observed anually on June 23.
This International Widows Day, lets talk about situations of widow in Indian Society.
A woman, leave everything in her existing world and walk down the aisle with her man. Every one agrees that a women’s world changes the moment she got married. Her thinking, opinions, way of living, choice of food and clothing, her name too.
She accepts all the changes happily and live a entire new life. A married women definitely finds her new self.
But a girl who left everything and enter the new world for a man, find herself alone in her world the moment her husband dies.
Widowhood is still a Curse in Indian Society. Death of her man brings her to a position where she is nothing. She can’t wear good clothes, cant eat good food and even cant smile or laugh. Everyone around her just stop caring about her. And her life changes upside down.
According to the census of 2011 there are about 5.6 crore widows in India. The number is definitely bit more for 2016. Once widowed, women in many countries often confront a denial of inheritance and land rights, degrading and life-threatening mourning and burial rites and other forms of widow abuse. The Widow women are also deprived of the share in property of her in laws as in Indian society the property is generally taken in the name of the elders, and in that case (self-acquired property of in laws), widow is not entitled for any share in the property. If the property is in the name of the husband of widow, the Mother in law of widow is also co – owner of the property as per Hindu Succession Act.
42 year old Smt. Anita Bhardwaj (name changed) was maltreated by her in laws after her husband’s death. She was beaten and deprived of all rights. She was not even allowed to meet anyone. Then anyhow with the help of a family friend she could register her case and raise voice against injustice. Her case was reported under 498 A IPC and Domestic Violence Act 2005. The accused family members were sentenced to 4 month imprisonment and penalty. She also got her share in the property. After that she is living an independent secure life.
“I lost my husband when I was 40 and there were times that my family, especially married women refused to even eat with me. I remember not being invited to events, people looking at me suspiciously if I smiled or laughed or at times even refusing to sit with me. It was almost like I was the reason why my husband died and I was left to live with the guilt. I still remember my mother telling me that I should have died with him. I was treated worse than an untouchable,” informed Anita Bhardwaj.
Kunal Madan, Solicitor & Advocate, KMA Law Firm, has been actively working on particularly on widow related cases in Delhi High Court. He stated “It’s very unfortunate that though we are stepping in 21st century and in this era of technology and modernisation there is one area in which we are still awaiting transformation i.e. maltreatment with widows”. He recently has ensured that Smt. Anita Bhardwaj get the justice she deserved.
Widowhood in India is still a state of social death, even among the higher castes. Anita Bhardwaj, is the one who got the courage to raise voice but in India, there are several widows who are maltreated by in laws with no support from their husband.
They are subjected to be cursed for as a reason for the death of her husband but such cases are hardly reported. They are expected to have a spiritual life with many restrictions which affects them both physically and psychologically.
According to the Home Ministry’s National Crime Bureau of India, violence against women is the fastest-growing crime. Every 34 minutes a woman is raped, and every 43 minutes a woman is kidnapped. Forty million widows continue to be deprived of their basic dignity as a kind of atonement for some sin. It’s the punishment for being a woman and a widow in India.
We have witnessed various actions taken by the society and recent amendment in Indian Penal Code has also strengthened the Law against Women. However, the actual incidents are rarely reported.
There is other section of society(rural) i.e. villages which follow the various rituals like shaving the head of widows, sati etc whereas the sati was prohibited as per law but the other rituals which are contrary to human rights and are offences under IPC still continue to follow, informs Kunal Madan.
A dearth of reliable hard data remains one of the major obstacles to developing the policies and programmes to address the poverty, violence and discrimination suffered by widows. There is a need for more research and statistics disaggregated by marital status, sex and age, in order to help reveal the incidence of widow abuse and illustrate the situation of widows. We need more laws to protect the special rights of widow and legislators must focus on these aspects or else we as widows are just doing their time in living hell, added Kunal Madan.
United Nations has included International Widows Day on June 23rd annually and shall be viewed as an opportunity for action towards achieving full rights and recognition for widows – too long invisible, uncounted and ignored.
This International Widows Day, lets pledge to make society better for widows