Steps are be­ing taken to help im­prove the lives of wi­d­ows in South Asia but more work needs to be done and mind­sets over­hauled in these largely male-dom­i­nated so­ci­eties.

Southasia - - Contents - By Ruhie Jamshaid

Wi­d­ows in South Asia live a life of ad­ver­si­ties.

Be­hind the songs that res­onate from the tem­ples of the holy city of Vrin­da­van, In­dia, stand des­ti­tute wi­d­ows who sing for a sin­gle bowl of rice and lentils, their only meal for the day. Many In­dian wi­d­ows, stig­ma­tized and aban­doned by so­ci­ety, make their way to this Holy City to sing de­vo­tional hymns to sur­vive their ill-fate. The wi­d­ows of In­dia are shunned by so­ci­ety and abol­ished from a nor­mal ex­is­tence by virtue of the death of their spouses, some­thing very much be­yond their con­trol. Though fate has dealt its cruel card, they re­ceive lit­tle or nil com­pas­sion from so­ci­ety. Wel­come to the hor­ri­fy­ing world of In­dian wi­d­ows… al­most 40 mil­lion of them… where tales of hunger, men­tal, phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse abound.

The face of sor­row seen in the wid­owed com­mu­nity in In­dia is repli­cated all over male-dom­i­nated South Asia. The shock­ing woes of these women, who have lost their hus­bands, are a shared com­mon thread in the re­gion. Over and over again, one hears sto­ries of mis­ery and ill-treat­ment, be it Nepal or Ban- gladesh. In Nepal for in­stance, wi­d­ows are not al­lowed to re­marry due to out­dated Hindu cus­toms, even if they are young and de­sire re­mar­riage. Women who have lost their hus­bands are blamed for their hus­band’s deaths and ac­cused of be­ing ill-fated or pay­ing for the sins of their past lives. Strict, pa­tri­ar­chal laws are put in place to con­trol these women, al­ready suf­fer­ing tremen­dous loss. What­ever their age, be it six­teen or sixty, they are not al­lowed to wear col­or­ful clothes, their move­ment is re­stricted, their hair is chopped off and all forms of jew­ellery are disal-

She has a right to live.

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