South Asian Conference Capacity Building of Marginalized Women: Widow
Conference Report-VI -- Final Sections
1st-3rd February 2002, New Delhi
Law as a Vehicle of Change
Changing Role of Media
LAW AS A VEHICLE OF CHANGE
Lakshmi Swaminathan spoke about the legal part of the proceeding related
to discrimination of the widows. A widow should be sympathized with but
she is blamed for her husband’s death. Under Article 14 and 21 the
Supreme Court has given widowed women the right to life, property,
health care and livelihood, 1956 Act. A widow is neither wanted in her
family nor is she wanted in her in-laws family for property (to deny a
widow her property right). Thus a widow has to take the help of law to
get her rights.
The evocation of social awareness is required. The less privileged
widow should be educated about her rights. A widow can approach for
legal aid rather than going to the court to fight for her rights because
the court procedure is cumbersome and one has to struggle a lot.
Another problem a widow faces is that she needs a lot of money to
approach the court (most of the time she can’t afford to go to court due
to scarcity of money). Thus legal aid is a great help to the widows.
Under Act 125 a widow is entitled to maintenance to be paid to her.
The Guild of Service can approach to -- recommend more women judges to
address the problem of widows who are thrown out of their homes. Under
the pension rules –- 1974. If a man dies before retirement from
Government job, his widow wife is entitled to a pension. The war widows
get a pension. The NGO’s recognize the widows skills and gets them work
to empower them economically.
A performa is provided by the Central Tribunal (a widow can go and ask
for help there). A widow can retain the Government quarter of the dead
husband. Under a Government scheme health service is available to her.
Through privatization funds can be created –- to give legal aid (to the
helpless, hapless, subjugated widowed women).
Law as a Vehicle of change. Law can be implemented in the favour of a
widow to give rights. If every effort fails the ultimate weapon is the
law. A widower in our society does not face any problem, it is the widow
who is relegated and humiliated. A married woman is a complete person,
when single or widowed she is virtually declared a non-entity by our
In the socio-legal system a woman's legal status is not equal to men.
The pertinent question is how a widow will live without her children and
husband. So the share of the property has to be given to her so that
she can sustain her life. A problem arises with the widows of the
businessmen who hide their assets from their wives when living. Thus
after death of husband a widowed woman is generally unaware of her
rights and she faces problems.
[ . . . . .]
Salma Ali spoke about Bangladesh. Economic empowerment is directly
linked with religious and social empowerment. We in Bangladesh run a
shelter for all women in trouble including widows. The widows in our
country are mainly from rural areas; they are illiterate so jobs can’t
be given to them. There are garment factories where the destitute girls
and young widows get jobs to earn their bread. There is no protection
for these women – no proper transport facilities to go to their work
area. Local men in their respective work places abuse them. This
problem has to be taken up for solution.
Nona D'silva spoke for Sri Lanka. Through education the Sri Lanka women
are empowered. We have a high literacy among women. But education has
to start from home. Teaching is important at home or outside [of the
home]. In Sri Lanka a girl and a boy are not treated equally so
mentality should change towards the girl child 0 the mother can change
this –- her nondiscriminating attitude towards the boy and girl. Sri
Lankan media has to change to educate children. For example a man
abused a woman, [but this was reported in the paper as] the man was a
Rukshanda Naz gave the perspective from Pakistan. How to get rid of
practices regarding widows? Through implementation of laws in favour of
women's empowerment. The problem of polygamy exists. Thus a widow
remarried to a married man with children faces financial problems.
The morning session of this conference has been very provoking and
- Law as a vehicle of change. Law can be implemented in favor of the
widow to give rights. If every effort fails the ultimate is the law.
- A widower in our society does not face any problem, it is the widow
who is relegated and humiliated. A married woman is a complete person
when single or widowed she is virtually declared a non-entity by our
- In the socio-legal system a woman's legal status is not equal to men.
- She is an unwelcome person –- sudden sliding of her from auspicious
ceremonies in the family at home.
- Under the Sharda Act child marriage has been abolished. But child
marriages are still there.
- The pertinent question is how a widow will live without her children
and husband. So the share of the property has to be given to her so
that she can sustain her life.
- Article 304 [stated that] dowry death was declared as gruesome
murder. When Mohini Giri was the Chairperson of the National Commission
for Women Sati Prevention Bill was also passed during this period.
- 1980 Roop Kanwar Case
- 1956 –- Act mentioned property sharing
- A problem arises with the widows of the businessmen who hide their
assets from their wives when living. Thus after death of husband a
widowed woman is generally unaware of her rights and she faces problems.
- The Christians regressive about laws. The customary law is
followed. The rights are given to the Pope, Church is the legal
custodian of the money. A widow is given help from the Pope -– kind of
charity, she want equal treatment not pity.
- Through civil law to be transcended -– but society that is lagging
behind also has to progress with the changing legal system.
CHANGING ROLE of MEDIA
Rhadha Devi Sharma spoke about the Nepal experience. The print media,
radio, and TV can reach the masses -- illiterate masses in rural areas in
on language to educate them to programs made by the Media on positive
achievement by women. And punish those people in the Media culpable of
showing the negative aspects regarding a widow.
- Four lakh elderly women get Rs. 100/- as pension (including widows)
- Social welfare Ministry is giving financial aid to widows
- Young widows are remarried and hence do not face any economic
- The elderly widows are left under the care of Thana Committee. The
separated, divorced and abandoned women are considered. There are five
hundred NGO's working for such women.
In the Gureem caste in the eastern mountain range of Nepal a widow is
remarried to the younger brother of her dead husband. Thus there is no
division of property and the widow does not face any economic problems.
Sri Lanka has many Buddhist and in Buddhist value system a woman is
considered as a mother and sister. Thus the Buddhist religious leaders
are trying to protect the dignity of the women (widows).
The bank systems are also working in the arena to protect the economic
rights of widows.
Vasavya Mahila Mandali is working for distressed widows. Confidence
building and upliftment of widows is their basic objective.
Mainstreaming of widows by making them mentally strong is one of their
basic tenents. They give vocational training to the widows to make them
economically independent. They also have legal call to provide legal
assistance and approximately 100 cases have been solved till date. They
are also running awareness programs for widow empowerment.
Ekal Nari Shaksti Sansthan is working in 23 Zillas of Rajasthan in
Block, District and state. Changes have been brought about in the law
to provide pension to the widows. They are also trying to preserve the
property rights of widows and helping them to get their land back. They
have also started programme to fight for widow’s economic rights.
Guild of Service
Our work in Vrindavan. Amar Bari shelter for homeless widows. We call
the widows Ma. We have rehabilitated the widows. The widows are now
socially and physically empowered. We conduct a study for the economic
development for widows. Auxiliary nursing training centers has been
facilitated by the Guild. The widow nurses after training are employed
in Mathura hospitals and nursing homes. Vocational training is given to
the uneducated widow. Basic health care, knowledge of health care,
education, and economic employment in our agenda. Qualified teachers
and doctors come to teach our widows.
Kate Young, "I have worked on subordination of women in general. The
question of widow is a question of oppression. The problem arises
because of the imbalances in gender relations in society."
Tremendous complexities exist in South Asian region. The question of
myth and reality -– shocking that in this age we still live in myths.
The positive aspect is the courage of poor widows. For example, 4
widows of Rajasthan rebelled against the oppression. Without solidarity
nothing can be done to change things. We have to see the context in
which we are living disturbing and dynamic. We are becoming fragmented
strong movement required to combat the problems the negatives. I am
impressed about the calling of the religious leaders in this
conference. Unity is required more –- Fragmentation will become less -–
if Unity more.
The South Asian Alliance a Success
Ms. Mohini Giri said, "it should be a Global movement not South Asian
Mr. Guha of UNIFEM said, "I am privileged to be a part of this
conference. Human rights does not have a meaning if it is not for all."
Restructuring of laws is needed. Government schemes for widow welfare
are needed. Global focus can make changes. Alliance between Global and
South Asian is the beginning of a long struggle. UNIFEM's Critical
concern is for the widow. We will do things according to your agenda.
The print media, radio and TV can reach the masses illiterate masses in
rural areas in one language to educate them to programmes made by Media
on positive achievement by women. And punish those people in Media
culpable of showing the negative aspects regarding a widow.
The conference ended on a melodious note by the song sung by Vidya Sinha
the upcoming talented singer. The song, "Masal sakte ho" was composed
specially for the conference by the well known [singer] and activist and
writer, Kamla Bhasin.
A comprehensive vote of thanks was given by the Guild of Service Joint
Secretary, Meera Khanna.
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