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Widows of India

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by

Cassie Lang

on 16 April 2014

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Transcript of Widows of India

Widows of India
City of Widows: 'Bad Luck'
Lady Outcasts Left to Die
Alone in India
In India, widowhood is a state of death even among the higher castes

Widows are seen as responsible for the death of their husband

Widows are shunned from society because they are seen as a financial drain for their family

Widows do not protest such treatment because it is a tradition which they have internalized
"The widow is 'uglified' to deprive her of the core of her femininity. It is an act symbolic of castration. She is deprived of the red dot between her eyebrows that proclaims her sexual energy."
Widows are an invisible community in India

"We treat widowhood not as a natural stage in the life cycle of a woman, we treat it as some kind of an aberration. We accept death but we don't accept widowhood. Because somewhere in the Indian psyche, the woman's identity is with the man and the minute he's not there, it's something that cannot be accepted."
Mortality rates are 85 percent higher among widows than among married women

Only 42 percent of people in India recognize that widows are discriminated against.
Remarriage
Although marriage among Hindu widows is frowned upon, some do get remarried

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was one of the foremost advocates of widow remarriage in modern India

Ishwar had devoted his life to improving the status of Hindu widows and encouraging remarriage
Remarriage
Ishwar supported his cause by collecting almost 1,000 signatures and sent the petition to the India Legislative Council

Although the Council received thousands of signatures both for and against the cause they finally decided to support the "enlightened minority"
Remarriage
In 1856, The Hindu Widow Remarriage Act was put in place

It legalized the remarriage of Hindu widows of all jurisdictions of India under the East India Company rule
Remarriage
Sadly, the Act did not change the status of the widows

Due to the fact that women were often blamed for their husbands death, they had to give up their jewelry and live off simple food

The younger widows were preyed upon by men who would make them their mistresses or force them into prostitution
Remarriage
Although the Remarriage Act had the best intentions, it did little to alleviate the widows situation

Remarried women from castes that had traditionally practiced remarriage were often deprived of their rightful inheritance and those castes were seen as inferior
Widowhood Around The World
America
Open to choosing the rest of their lives
Can remarry
Can continue to live by themselves
Not held for the blame of husband's death
Held responsible for family; but can receive governmental help if needed
India
Estimated 40 million widows in India
Can remarry, although it is frowned upon
Once widowed they don’t receive the same treatment, or choices in life
Blamed for husband’s death, and considered bad luck
Ordered to live in widow camps (some become brothels)
No connection to family, proper shelter, money
Iraq
Total of 1 in 10 women widowed
Once widowed taken in by husbands family
Considered a burden
Takes on both role
-Caretaker and supports financially
-Receives a total of $300, during a two month period
Although widowed, typically will refuse to remarry
Ghana
Once widowed loses all value
Can remarry, have to go through a processes of purifying self
Once purified, married to conceive children for deceased husband
Some blamed for practicing witchcraft
Placed into one of the six witchcraft camps, to hide from potential beatings, torture, and lynching
India Widows
Iraq's Widows
"I am accused of being a witch who killed her husband."
-Terezinha, Zambezia Province, Mozambique, 1997

"I and my children were kicked out of the house and beaten by the brothers-in-law."
-Seodhi, Malawi, 1994

"As soon as my husband had died, they took everything away, even the pots, blanket, and sacks of maize."
-Renana, Gujerat, India, 1995

"My husband died of AIDS and slept with many women; I am now dying, but his family blames me for his death."
-Isabel, Kenya, 1996
Effects of Widowhood in India
Women more prone to violence

Excluded from the economy

Lack of education

Poor health due to poverty

Armed conflict
Organizations Trying to Help
Sulabh International

United Nations

Women's Shelters: Dr. V Mohini Giri's Guild for Service
Dr. V Mohini Giri
Sulabh International
United Nations
Promoting Women's Movement

Encouraging women to speak up
India in 2013
Today India still fights for women's rights,
especially for widows

It has started to become safer for widows, but is
far from over
India is a country with a population of about 1,200,000,000

There are about 933 females for every 1,000 males in this population

It is located in southern Asia between Burma and Pakistan

India's political system has been in constant turmoil
Since about the 1900s, widows in India have been torn from society, pushing them into either brothels or extreme poverty

When becoming widowed, women are forced to shave their heads and wear white

This tradition is deeply rooted in Hindi culture in India
The world started to become aware of this in 1996 when an Indian woman spoke out against her plight in poverty and prostitution as a result of being widowed

The woman's name was Vidula Javalgekar. She was beaten for speaking out, and her whereabouts are now unknown.
A Look At An Indian Brothel
Full transcript