"Freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression."- Nelson Mandela
Ever heard the phrase 'Husband Eaters'? Well, this is what a lady is framed in India as when her husband dies. The condition of widows in India is really heart-wrenching. Though the 'Sati Pratha' has ended and widows don't have to throw themselves into the funeral fire of their husbands, still, they live a life that is really tough for them.
Some of them are found begging on the streets, while some wait for a meal outside the ashrams, as their families abandon them... This is what widows in India are living through.
On the same note, today, I am here to show you the tragic situation of ladies who suffer to live after the death of their husbands. For them, being a widow is no less than a punishment of the wrongdoing they didn't even commit.
Mohini Giri, a veteran activist in the fight for women's rights who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, said, "Widowhood is a state of social death, even among the higher castes."
"Widows are still accused of being responsible for their husband's death, and they are expected to have a spiritual life with many restrictions which affect them both physically and psychologically," she adds.
It's been 187 years that Sati Pratha is banned. According to this ancient ritual, a widow was expected to immolate herself on her husband's pyre or commits suicide in another form shortly after her husband's death. Even after the practice is banned, women after the death of their husbands are still generally expected to mourn until the end of their lives.
According to 2,000-year-old sacred texts by Manu, the Hindu progenitor of mankind, "A virtuous wife is one who after the death of her husband constantly remains pure (without getting into any physical attachment) and reaches heaven though she has no son."
According to Hindu traditions, either it is an old lady or young woman, after their husband's death, they are expected to leave behind their colourful saris, jewellery and shave their heads off. This tradition is to make sure that the widow must not attract any male desire towards her.
They are supposed to do the work others are doing for a long time. They follow the same rules like other widows and believe it is the fate they deserve like putting restrictions on their diets and do what traditions ask them to do.
According to the orthodox beliefs, onions, garlic, pickles, potatoes, and fish add sexual feelings as they stimulate blood in the body. Somebody, please tell these people that these are the same foods important to avoid malnutrition and most crucially death.
According to Indian traditions, a widow woman is called to be a burden for the family members. Apart from this, she is supposed to be a sexual threat to other marriages.
According to Women's Media Center, Radha whose husband died when she was 18, narrates how she was sexually abused by her family members but still, chose to remain silent out of fear of not being believed or of giving her family a bad name.
If the widows are younger, they are often forced into the sex trade and 'owned' by criminals. They have to keep themselves safe from getting into prostitution, but only a few get lucky enough.
If after getting raped, a widow gets pregnant, she is hurt by quacks for a painfully searing abortion. If not this, she would have an extra mouth to feed and an extra pair of hands to beg.
According to the Home Ministry's National Crime Bureau of India, violence against women is the fastest-growing crime. Every 34 minutes a woman is raped, and every 43 minutes a woman is kidnapped. Forty million widows continue to be denied of their basic dignity like they are paying for a sin they didn't even commit.
In the northern Indian state of Punjab, a widow is connected to as Randi, which means 'prostitute'. In this region, the widows are encouraged to marry her deceased husband's brother. This is because being owned by a man is a way to avoid being raped.
This is why being a widow in India is like a punishment for the women. We need to change this. It's time people should change their minds.
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