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.
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 In Nepal for instance, widows are not allowed to remarry due to outdated Hindu customs, even if they are young and desire remarriage.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.