WORLD Widows’ Day is observed to remind ourselves of the need to work for full rights of widows and take steps to end violence, discrimination and poverty suffered by them. The ultimate goal of the day is to develop resources and policies to empower widows and allow them to build a life for themselves and their children, following the death of their husbands. Women often find themselves without support when their husbands die. They also find themselves denied of inheritance and land rights and sometimes are evicted from their homes, ostracised and abused. The children of widows are also affected:they are more susceptible to abuse, especially the girl-child.
Every year on June 23, World Widows’ Day is observed with the only aim to raise awareness about the human rights violation that widows face in many countries across the globe.
In Kashmir, the observance of this day reminds us of the pathetic condition of this depressed class of society: the women who have become widows due to one or the other reason. Here, the causes are many. The war-torn state of the valley has left thousands of widows in its wake., According to some reports, there are over 32000 widows and 97000 orphans in violence battered J&K. The unending conflict in the erstwhile state is making things worse for the vulnerable sections of society. The widows and orphans, whose numbers have increased drastically since 1989, have not received adequate help from the government or NGOs. Neither the government nor the NGOs have been able to help them in an organised and systematic manner.
The tragic aspect of the situation is that the union territory has not adopted any specific social policy and programme in this regard. The problems widows accumulate and intensify day by day. Individuals, society, community and the state must share responsibilities in terms of programmes.
In addition to the large chunk of the women who have become widows during the thirty years of the armed conflict, there are thousands of women who are referred to as ‘half widows’. The term ‘HalfWidow’ is exclusively addressed to the Kashmiri women whose husbands have been missing for decades. Thousands of the men have disappeared during the conflict. The result is that their wives find themselves in mental trauma because they do not know whether their husbands are alive or not. Most of the widows have not married due to the doubt about their husbands’ fate. The failure of the society and government to help these women has compounded their sufferings. Along with the plight of thousands of orphans, the children of half widows who are affected deeply by the conflict, adds more to the crises. Most of the widows are suffering from depression, phobia, traumatic disorders and emotional instability.
This day should be considered as an opportunity for action towards achieving full rights for widows, to provide them a fair share of their inheritance, pension, social protection, education and training opportunities. At mohalla and village level also, the well off persons must come forward and form welfare committees at their respective villages.
Rayees Ahmad Kumar
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