India: Highlighting Abuse and Discrimination on International Widows’ Day
Tuesday, July 1, 2014 9:30 AM

In many parts of India, wives are considered inferior to their husbands, with little value to society once their husbands die. Although male widowers may remarry, female widows often may not and are stripped of their social status, causing ostracism, unemployment, and homelessness. Widows are also subjected to violence such as “widow burning” and “widow cleansing,” a practice that often involves rape and spreads HIV.

As a result, more than 200 million widows and their children are living in poverty. Although some governments such as India’s offer benefits to widows, many are unaware of the availability of such assistance or how to procure it.

On June 23, 2014, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recognized the fourth annual International Widows’ Day in a statement highlighting the discrimination and abuse that widows face in many cultures, and calling for “stronger action to empower women, promote gender equality and end all forms of violence against women.” 

The Loomba Foundation created International Widows’ Day in 2005 to raise awareness about the challenges faced by widows and their children around the world. The UN officially recognized the annual day of recognition starting in 2011.

Compiled from: Marking International Widows’ Day, Ban Urges End to Harmful Practices, Abuse Against Women, UN News Centre (June 23, 2014); Hargreaves, Melanie, International Widows' Day: What It's Like to Be a Widow in India, The Huffington Post (June 20, 2014).