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Widowhood: A life interrupted


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“I always felt different because everywhere I go people either give me sympathetic looks or are scared that I will bring bad luck. But the first time I actually felt betrayed was when one of my sisters was getting married. I was treated like an outcast by my own family, all of whom thought that if I touched the bridal clothes or anything related to the nuptial ceremony something catastrophic will happen,” narrated Mahar whilst describing her experience as a widow in Pakistan.

Mahar belonged to the upper-middle strata of the Pakistani society and lives in one of the largest cities in the country. However, her narrative made me think about hundreds of widows living in the rural areas of Pakistan who are far less educated and empowered than Mahar and most definitely a lot more discriminated.

Many will fail to admit the truth that despite all the progress that societies have made in terms of equality and human rights, widows are still considered a bad omen. Many widows are ostracised from society whereas, quite a handful of them are deprived of their rights to remarry and inherit property. Although all religions ask their followers to treat widows with respect and dignity, however, it is evident that the traditions and superstition supersede religious diktats.

It is important to understand that with the world embroiled in conflicts ranging from wars to religious violence the percentage of widows in societies is surging drastically. It is important to recognise them as equal and contributing members of the society by empowering them as much as possible so that they are able to lead ‘normal’ lives.

Despite of all the awareness regarding human and equal rights, widows are still living unfortunate lives in many south Asian countries. In fact, Pakistan is not the only country where widows are marginalised. Most South Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Nepal and India do not treat widows on equal footings with other women and citizens of the society. However, the situation in India because of old values and tradition is highly critical and worse than most countries.

An Indian widow from Pune, who now lives in Detroit, Michigan, shared her experience on condition of anonymity by saying, “I belong to an elite Indian family and one would think that with the world is changing so fast the country would have left behind its traditions. I agree that India is a progressive society but there are various issues that are still considered beyond discussion or argument and widowhood is certainly one of them.”

“I lost my husband when I was 40 and there were times that people, especially married women refused to even eat with me. I remember not being invited to events, people looking at me suspiciously if I smiled or laughed or at times even refusing to sit with me. It was almost like I was the reason why my husband died and I was left to live with the guilt. I still remember my mother telling me that I should have died with him. I was treated worse than an untouchable,” she added with tears glistening in her eyes.

“I fail to understand that why people do not realise that life and death is in the hands of Almighty and we play no role in such decisions whatsoever. If I had it my way I would have died before him,” she said.

India is one of the few countries where widows suffer the most. It is estimated that over 15,000 widows from different parts of India are forced to live in Ashrams located in holy cities such as Vrindavan — most of them hoping for a death which remains their only solace. A heavy majority of these widows sing bhajans and receive a small pittance from the people who visit temples, whereas others beg or receive a petty allowance from the government. One of the most heart wrenching facts about these widows is that sometimes they do not even receive a respectful cremation. In fact, just a few months back some of the widows who died were chopped up into pieces and their extremities were stuffed in gunny bags as the government did not have sufficient funds to cremate them in accordance with Hindu rituals.

Although many social organisations and activists are working to help Indian widows, however, it is evident that for them the only hope lies in death which will liberate them from this vicious cycle of life.

The predicaments faced by South Asian widows has prompted South-Asian Network for Widow Empowerment in Development (SANWED) to undertake various measures in order to create awareness about the problems faced by widows and mainstreaming them into economic and social stratum of societies. A few months back SANWED held a conference in Islamabad to adopt a unanimous declaration called ‘Islamabad Declaration for Mainstreaming Widows’ and ‘Single Women’s Rights in Public Policy’. The declaration is aimed at providing equal opportunities for widows who are discriminated in the society.

I always wonder why widowers are not considered pariahs or unlucky in our countries and why only women are punished for acts that are beyond their control. What part, if any, did the aforementioned women play in bringing about the untimely demise of their significant others? What choices did they have? If we all know the answers to these questions then why do we continue to expel widows from our society?

It might sound ironic but the bitter truth is that divorced women are stigmatised more than widows. It is evident that in patriarchal societies, such as ours, single women are considered heretical. Any woman who wishes or chooses to live without a man is stereotyped on the basis of her decision to live alone.

It is important to understand that women can survive without a male supporter and still continue to live a respectable life. The sooner we realise this the better it is for our societies, and more importantly, our future generations.



Faiza Mirza
The writer is a Reporter at

DAWN_VIDEO - /1029551/DAWN-RM-1x1

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (92) Closed

Karachi Wala Nov 13, 2012 04:51pm
@ Dr. Najia Khan, Could the reason be because most of subcontinent Muslims are converts and carried these habbits with them?
ZZX-1 Nov 13, 2012 06:46pm
You are brave and truthful to have the guts to expose the Hindu culture with so much anguish and pain here.
What is Seo Nov 13, 2012 06:23am
Indian Culture is based on caste system. Its religion is based on caste. when the people of india can do murder of widow " custom of satti" then why not separate a widow from other words. it is violation of human rights. Govt. of India, United Nations should efforts for the rights of widow women.
Sania Nov 12, 2012 11:01pm
It's a bitter truth we see in our society where widows, divorcee's and single women are let down at times. Things will not change until we change our attitude. What upsets me is even educated class possess the similar mind- set. I have come across people asking some weird questions why a certain woman is still single in her thirties. They will not even leave you if you get married young and then divorced or widowed or does not have a son/or childless and the list continues! Everything happens for a reason and Allah swt knows best. In times like these, its advisable for women to stand on their own feet and be self-sufficient. Incase, if god forbids, something bad happens, they are able to get up and face the world with courage.
sk Nov 12, 2012 11:06pm
It is sad that the widow from Michigan actually said "I was treated worse than an untouchable".
Sania Nov 12, 2012 11:08pm
God bless your mother. She was indeed a brave lady. We are only accountable to Allah swt. Our duty is to be good and respectful towards his creation and stand up for injustice. When we do that, Allah swt has stored high rewards for us. Stay khush
BEA Nov 13, 2012 05:04pm
Cyrus what problem do you have with my name.?
Rao Nov 14, 2012 07:52am
Please read other articles written by the same writer in Dawn. She is not prejudiced against India or Hindus. I agree with the author that widows in India, among Hindus, face much more discrimination than Muslim widows. Remarriage is not a taboo in Islam, but in traditional Hindu societies it is a taboo For your information...I am an Indian, born into a Hindu family.
Rakesh Nov 14, 2012 07:56am
@Manghirmalani The writer does have a name---Faiza Mirza :-) If you read her previous articles, I am sure you will realize that she is well meaning in all her articles and doesn't intend to be rhetorical. On the contrary she does have good things to say about our country/society. I recon she is being objective in this article and is certainly not absolving the Pakistani society of the prejudice inherent in them either. Let our generation give peace a chance. Wishing you success in everything you do! Rakesh :-)
Tanvir Nov 13, 2012 05:26pm
Human rights are not awarded by a ghost. After all, they are declared by either a human or a human society. In case of Islam, it happen to be Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
Sandip Nov 12, 2012 10:16pm
Sir respectfully the condition of widows in Pakistan (the society of progressive Islam) is no better. All the religion and society have different ways to dealing with this. As long as only option seen for woman is to stay married this issue will never be solved. In society were I belong I personally find impolite to ask any guy or girl there matrial status. If our society moves towards that then this problem is solved.
Sandip Nov 12, 2012 10:18pm
Guess people doing thumbs down didn't understand the satire.
Ara Nov 12, 2012 08:54pm
I can relate to the problems suffered by the widows, despite being a male. I have been suffering from a very rare disease which does not have a cure in the pathological medicine (I am using homeopathic and other treatments, hoping they would cure me). Most of my previous friends are reluctant to associate with me. And my kids have been left with no family friends. (They still do have friends at school, I am living outside Pakistan, otherwise my parents and siblings are still in touch with me). Two of my previous closest friends (or so I thought), even tried to stab me in the back (metaphorically).
FactCheck Nov 13, 2012 07:17pm
Ranjit Nov 13, 2012 08:37pm
Respectfully I will submit that every religion believes that their prophet had a direct hotline to God. And yet all these direct hotlines by different prophets have resulted in different commands from God. And that is the basis of all religious conflicts and intolerance. That kind of intolerant thinking is true of all devout people of all religions, including my own (some of whom can be the most intolerant on this planet). So what do we do? I suggest we leave religion out of social discourse and let it remain a private matter.
Syed Nov 12, 2012 05:39pm
So what. Is the solution. We know it before reading this column.human societies tried to solve this problem but failed to do so and went from one extreme to the other. Only islam give the balanced solution. In Islam widow is not stigma, they are encouraged to remarry or. Stay with their children and family. It is influence of ignorance and other cultures on Muslims which complicate the matter.
Cyrus Howell Nov 13, 2012 01:50am
"The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves." -- Dresden James
Cyrus Howell Nov 13, 2012 01:18am
My son had a company grossing $200,000 per month. It went out of business along with Commodore Computer. He said when he lost his money his friends never called him again. Some friends! Wealthy people only care about each other superficially, as a convenience.
Cyrus Howell Nov 13, 2012 01:21am
Republicans spend on defense. Democrats spend on healthcare and education. They are two different animals. Republicans work for themselves. Democrats work for wages.
Cyrus Howell Nov 13, 2012 01:23am
Yes. Men earn the money to take care of the children, but the women take all the credit.
Cyrus Howell Nov 13, 2012 01:26am
Someone named Bea could only be living in the UK.
Cyrus Howell Nov 13, 2012 01:39am
Most first generation immigrants are all the same. Their neighborhoods are "the old country" while their children are face to face with something entirely different. The Greeks lived under Ottoman domination for 400 years, and in America their ideas of morality and the treatment of women are very similar. I met a very elegant and beautiful Indian-American woman who had just graduated from the University of Arizona and had just spent the summer as a bartender in a "biker bar". "Oh, my God, what did you tell your parents", I asked. "They didn't know, was her answer, because I didn't tell them." Well, Thank God for college. Second Generation has to go behind the backs of First Generation. Look for tattoos under that Islamic clothing.
Cyrus Howell Nov 13, 2012 01:42am
" I do this because I can. I do this because I want to, and I do this because you told me I couldn't." MUMAITH KHAN
Syed Nov 13, 2012 04:13pm
I don't understand Ranjit logic.somebody has to set standards and they were set by mohammad.till to date no one reached the standards set and practiced by him.may be we have few groups setting the standards but none have practiced like mohammad did so please don't show bias.A good thing should be accepted regardless of who is saying it and it was only mohammad who showed it by example
Syed Nov 13, 2012 04:28pm
You got it right tabassum that follow islam is the panacea for all social evils.By the way I had afriend by the name tabassum farooqi in Karachi from Strathclyde academy where I used to teach. I am a doctor in Canada and I have lost this friend tabassum and trying to find this friend. I am fazal
Abdullah Cheema Nov 14, 2012 08:43am
Brother its Deuterogamy (A second marriage, after the death of the first husband of wife),Islam doesn't allow polygamy(The having of a plurality of wives or husbands at the same time) for women but men.
Cyrus Howell Nov 13, 2012 01:10am
People living in the countryside in every Third World country have many superstitions handed down to them. It does not matter what country, and especially in places where it is dark at night, with no electric lighting. That is when the wind whistles, the moon is dark and the visions of evil spirits and animal spirits come out to play - with the mind.. Superstition and neurotic fears are, as Ernst Hemingway once said, "nothing but an overactive imagination." There are lots of magic tricks to make sick babies well, and evil spirits go away. . If I had been the widow no one would sit with I would have stared at the other women, one at a time, with bulging eyes, occasionally jerk my head around to scare someone else. If they believe in the Evil Eye, let them own it. At that point I would owe my own family no loyalty. . Still they all play the game until their own husband dies, don't they? So the 40 year old was probably just the same until she felt the pain. Indians have good manners, but this is nonsense. Women do need to be educated because they are the conformists. It's just a game. When a society goes down hill women are just as much to blame. . So far as Afghanistan goes, women are treated far worse that in Pakistan. They are worthless in the opinion of the majority of Afghan men. The photo of the woman in the blue burka kneeling with an automatic rifle to her head at the Kabul football field was a widow. In Afghanistan a woman's life is nothing because they are considered nothing. They are in revolt against the terrible oppression there which makes their condition appear better when it is actually worse than in Pakistan. The Afghans are a blood thirsty lot. There is a lot more that can't be printed. . Obviously when a woman's husband dies there is no transfer of an evil spirit or a jinx. In my opinion this is one reason women are not taken serious by men. Just remember the words of Leo Tolstoi who said, "The society of women is different than the society of men". Women are womens' natural allies. Women are also womens' worst enemies. I read the biography of Ethel Waters, the Black actress in Gone With the Wind. She was one of the colored maids who did the house work for the White women in town. She wrote that if you were young and pretty you were resented by all the other older cleaning women who's dreams had been lost.
Malvika Nov 13, 2012 12:54pm
Good article! Although I still wonder weather the real purpose was highlighting the plight of widows in India! There is not much written about widows in Pakistan. Hindu bashing and India bashing comments prove writer has hit the nail in the right place. Women in whole of south Asia is mistreated in every way possible. Unless our respective education systems teach our young to respect and value women no real change in the attitude can be achieved.
Ranjit Nov 13, 2012 12:55pm
I understand you are saying something nice, but I object that rights to widows had to be given by your blessed prophet. They should have human rights whether or not the prophet wanted them to have it.
idol worshipper Nov 14, 2012 05:59am
It may sound strange but it is women who are against women and it is men who are doing things to get them out. There are mother in laws, sister in laws and other wonderful women who will pass these rules as who is auspicious and who is cursed.
Mohammad Arif Nov 14, 2012 11:44am
In most part of India also, the situation is nearly same like or worse. And in Hindu community it is like crime against humanity. But the situation has become a little better. I remember during my childhood (nearly 30 years ago), one man from Rajput Hindu family had died. His family was very rich and they were like landlords. He was the head of the family. We, as children liked him very much. Sometimes when our primary school classes were over at evening and we were going back to our homes, he will suddenly appear on the road and chase us and distribute sweets. Please note that time there was no gap / difference between Hindus and Muslims (every body was practicing their religion peacefully and without any objection from others and no hatred among them). When he died, the people wanted to burn his wife also with him but she resisted and finally they left her from burning alive. But after that her life became like hell or worse. She had to shave all her hair. She had to wear only very cheap white saari. She couldn't go to temple. She had to leave her house and live in a very small dark room. She was to cook her own food in one pan in that room and eat alone. Nobody should touch anything of her. They were giving her very limited food which was only enough for one time in one day. She had to live mostly in the room in dark - without any light. She was not allowed to go to public places and also was not allowed to show her face to anybody. If she was caught in Public or in temple, she had to be beaten by hunters. She was only allowed to go for daily routine requirements in the night in dark and for bringing her water also she could go only in dark. But even if somebody saw her in the night, then again she had to be punished by hunters and sticks. There were many more things I cannot write here. But one thing I'll write that she was many many times raped by his own family members and outsiders and there was no complaint of this, since she had to live alone in her small room. The cruelty finally was over after some years when one of her family member killed her for capturing her property. Alaas, we loved her and her husband but we children couldn't do anything since nobody will listen her. Seeing these crimes against humanity, I hate this type of religion. Can anybody tell me where in Vedas these atrocity has been written. Shame on you who are the protectors of religion. Shame on you.
Dr. Najia Khan Nov 14, 2012 04:36am
Dear Prafulla, i shared with you all the experience my mother had. She is as strong as your colleague as she is the reason for us to have professional degrees and successful in our lives. I am protective towards her, but as someone has very truly commented in one of the posts that in the subcontinenet many traditions and trends are still being followed without any consideration for those being logical or not - my mother and her siblings were brought up with similar mind sets. It is sometimes difficult to go against what the society believes in. Look around and we find many single women in powerful positions, independent, intellectuals who do defy the rules of the society. We are talking about the way "We as a society" treat single women. Some elders of my family, when I was orphaned, were against pursuing a career in medicine, my mother was the only person who stood for me. Life for a women, no matter how educated and urbanized we in the South Asian countries are, will be difficult.
Tabassum Nov 14, 2012 04:36am
Just because you don't understand religion, you cannot make it a private matter. People are on WAR in the world and ranjit says it should be a private matter. Brother, All the prophets had one and same faith. Bases was same always that there is none worthy of worship other than Allah. They came one after another and spread the same message. I don't know which hotline you are talking about but YES all these prophets were the chosen ones of Allah and the only HOTLINE(as u said) I know was the angel Gabriel who used to bring them Allah's revealetions. All of them taught same thing that worship ALLAH only and do NOT worship IDOLS. IDOLS cannot give you anything. HOw can something made by you can give you something. How can you make your own god and worship it. God is the one one who made you and not whome you made and he is the one whome you should rely upon. Allah gave different commands accoring to different eras. And its the people who did not follow the commands as they came. If people had believed all the prophets and did as they said which was a command from Allah then there would have been no conflict. The whole humanity would have followed mohammad because he is the last prophet(sallalaho alahe wasallam) but people stopped till their own desired prophet who in turn taught them not to do so. Thus the fault is not in the religion. It is in the people who for their own pleasure did not follow the whole chain of prophets. There is only one religion and that is islaam which is taught by all the prophets.
Virkaul Nov 14, 2012 04:31am
@factcheck, Roop Kanwar died in 1987. Pl check on google.
Sunil Nov 14, 2012 04:16am
That may be true about several pakistani authors; but not about Faiza Mirza. She has a very balanced mindset. I have read several of her articles. She is equally critical about many aspects of pakistani culture - Sunil
tabassum Nov 14, 2012 04:11am
Well I don't agree with you. She has highlighted both the societies. Read it again. And if you think she mentioned india more then may be problem in india is more than pakistan. At least someone wrote about women of india or else people are stuck with BOLLYWOOD mania there!
tabassum Nov 14, 2012 03:57am
I am sure those who say Quran doesn't teach anything, have never dared to read it with its translation. And those who have read it will never say that its useless. Quran and bible are the two holy books among four. And Quran is the last book to be followed which is still and will always be as it was revealed. Atheist became atheist because they used their Common sense. If common sense was enough, their wouldn't be any books. Even this is common sense that we need The book to lead our lives properly. How did you reach professional level and got a job? By reading books? or by JUST using your common sense?If you need books for that then obviously you need BOOK for other more important things in iife too. Common sense!
Rakesh Nov 14, 2012 03:24am
The writer is doing a great service to all of us in the subcontinent, by highlighting social issues that require acute attention by those who want to live in a peaceful and civilized society. The least we could do to help is discuss it rationally, dispassionately, and to introspect to look for societal/individual remedies. Sadly many of us use this forum to make comments that reek of chauvinism of many a denomination. Why is it so difficult to realize that all humans are born equal irrespective of their nationality, religious beliefs, the language they speak, their ethnicity, or orientation of any other type! Peace, happiness etc can only be found when we purge ourselves of prejudices, stereotyping, bias, etc. Please realize that as citizens of this world, we have an individual/collective duty to make it a safe and happy place to live in for the future generations! Love and Peace Rakesh :-) :-) :-)
Zazi Nov 13, 2012 01:40pm
@Sandip: Marrying a widow is a fundamental pious deed 'swab' for a Muslim. Specially recommended in the Qur'an. And is a well known 'Sunnat'. The Prophet's first marriage was to a widow and lasted 25years...till her death. In fact to protect a destitute widow even a second marriage is advocated. And to provide a home, roof, and shelter to destitute widows and their children, maximum of four such wives are permitted...not for any other reason, even though many men have exploited this 'huddood' Shariah Law for selfish reasons. These protections of Islam shelter destitute widows, provide them honor and home...removing them from the exploitation and abuse potential of the street. A single woman, more so a destitute vulnerable one is openly targeted and discarded in other cultures...even in advanced welfare states of Scandinavian Europe, what to say of UK and USA.
Jennifer Nov 13, 2012 01:46pm
Malvika...didn't you get it by now that Pakistans achievements are measured against India...anything negative about India makes them feel superior and better...coupled with hate infused history for the kafir can't expect them to write better...
Jennifer Nov 13, 2012 01:54pm
Factcheck... Which madrasah thought you that widows are burnt now...can you point out when the last incident of Sati was reported or even conducted....maybe you should concentrate on Karo kiri etc...for your information female foeticide and other social evils are more rampant on Haryana ,Punjab and Rajasthan....sati was common amongst Rajput women as usually when their men died ,it was better to die than to be taken as sex slaves by the barbaric invaders....whole problems and social evils that came to the indian subcontinent is due to ISlAM as if this wouldn't have touched this land,we were a liberal and much advanced civilisation from 5000 years the truth which can be found in temple carvings and ancient literature.. The invading and greedy barbarians brought their repressive culture and started killing kafirs and taking their women hence killing girls and women due to honour wonder this was prominent in border areas of India.anyways Karma doesn't spare anyone...all the oppressors are getting oppressed today.?
Zeeshan Nov 14, 2012 12:28am
Pakistanis don't believe in God or Islam or teachings of the holy prophet of Islam (pbuh). They just pretend to do so, which is total hypocrisy. Pakistanis follow exactly opposite to what Islam teaches.
Truth Hurts Nov 14, 2012 12:21am
Well said Tanvir,......Masha'Allah
Truth Hurts Nov 14, 2012 12:22am
If Zakir Naik talks nothing but Islam then he is another Tanvir....or vice versa......Does it make a difference :-)
Zeeshan Nov 14, 2012 12:13am
Well said Tanvir. However you can see that that more people have given your good comment a thumb down, showing the 'jahalat' of our society. So jahalat is the bigger issue of our society which needs to be resolved as well. Unfortunately its a catch22 situation, can't fix one without fixing the other. How do you expect tens of millions of jahils to allow to fix this issue even though Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) himself clearly gave instructions on this matter and demonstrated it with his own example.
manghirmalani Nov 13, 2012 10:58pm
does writer have a name, or she is daughter of some General ?
manghirmalani Nov 13, 2012 10:56pm
Good article, Why do use India as example, look at your country, how many people die every day in Karachi??????? Get your mentality straight.
KKRoberts Nov 13, 2012 04:57am
For centuries people studied Quran , Bible, Ramayana , Mahabharata and all the religious books and what have they become?.It is time to put aside books and start thinking independently using their own common sense.
Intrepid Nov 13, 2012 04:39pm
george Nov 13, 2012 09:22pm
At least Indians spend their own money,not the American money.
george Nov 13, 2012 09:18pm
OK my friend,Pakistanis are the most cultured people and Islam is the best religion. Islam is the only religion which came from God,and all others were manufactured in the factory. Muslims are the most honest people in the planet. It is another fact that in almost all non-muslim countries,muslim form a large chunk of the prison population.
george Nov 13, 2012 09:13pm
All Pakistani muslims are descendants of Arabs, or some far away land. Please do not insult them saying they are related by blood to kuffars they love to hate.
george Nov 13, 2012 09:10pm
You have already showed arrogance which is typical of muslims that their religion islam is the best and all others are not as good as theirs. Well,there are many people who do not agree with you.
george Nov 13, 2012 09:08pm
Why deny this little pleasure to the Pakistanis.They do not have much to make them happy. They are so scared that their culture would be diluted by the Bollywood that they advise their country men not to watch hindi movies.
george Nov 13, 2012 09:03pm
Another Zakir naik.
Ghalib Khan Nov 13, 2012 05:49am
Dear Sandip, please get over Pakistan Phobia, everything problem is okay for you if that problem exist in Pakistan, first read the comment then comment. Islam says it is their right to Re-Marry not forcing them to re-marry..
Mahwish Nov 13, 2012 06:37am
I do not know why men cannot not see women independent. Even a women faces a lot of threats for concentrating on career.
Pagan Nov 13, 2012 06:35pm
I can't do it because because I can't get it up. I have fallen down and can't get up. CYRUS HOWELL LOL
Pagan Nov 13, 2012 06:32pm
Tattoos are a Pagan and Christian thingy. Muslims and Jews avoid them.
Tanvir Nov 13, 2012 05:54pm
All these omen-filled concepts about widows in Pakistan are not based on Islamic teachings. They are culturally fabricated over time due to other local influences. If Muslim men and women really want to resolve this issue and give some respect to widows, both the men and women must accept the concept of polygamy allowed under Islamic guidance. There mere fact being, that men are more prone to dying earlier than women because of their demand in the battle field or on dangerous missions, this leaving widows behind. These widows should have the right to seek financial and social security and human pleasures by finding jobs and marrying willing men. So there are always more available women than men for each other. This makes it a more a women's issue to fix the widowhood problems. Unless Muslim women accept the Islamic teachings and change their attitude on the polygamy rights of their husband, the women widows problem continue to linger on, ironically against the welfare of their own gender. In short, Islamic teaching offer a solution to both women and men to provide security and respect to each other and to enjoy life, it is more on the women to accept and enforce it for resolving the widowhood miseries of their gender - the women.
Syed Nov 13, 2012 04:39pm
Dear Sue please read islam.I have read almost all religions and all current and ancient societies including the western societies. Believe it none has reached the standards set by islam by giving so many rights to widows, divorced, orphans and in general women but even muslims are not practicing it and hence the confusion. I encourage you to read islam and then you will see that west is only doing very little
Karachi Wala Nov 13, 2012 04:43pm
@Khawaja Jee, You bring a good point. Some men and women may be able to survive rationally, emotionally, physically happy and healthy life, but if it becomes a norm, there is a strong possibility that it will bring some very unhealthy to the society. On the other hand, marrying a young widow against her wishes to someone twice or thrice her age or someone who is not at the level of her intellect will not bring any of the above mentioned harmony and happiness into her life.
Tabassum Nov 13, 2012 03:32am
Islaam is a balanced religion. Who said Pakistan is the balanced society, Ther are flaws in Pakistani society just like any other society. What Mr Syed is trying to say(I think) is follow ISLAM, Not Pakistan. And if you really want to know about islam, my brother why don't you study islam before studying Pakistan. You become a doctor by studying medical books and not by asking patients about their illness. And by the way, Pakistan is not the only islamic state!
prafulla Nov 13, 2012 03:05pm
wonderful Roberts, these religious books separate us from human beings. We start classifying people as per their religions so we should ignore these books.
guest Nov 13, 2012 03:05pm
Its true and very heart-wrenching to see the signs of marriage removed from a 'sumangli' on widowhood. Seen bangles and bindi removed from my mother-in-law when FIL died and she was 65 then. Still most of us could not take it with sons refusing to admit the ceremony. Still she underwent it as most women do, wholeheartedly, but does not confine herself to white clothes. Being so, imagining the same for a younger woman is terrible. Indian men are not mentally prepared to accept widows or a divorcees for their wives yet. All want to marry only chaste girls. Re-marriage in India is a taboo but at the same time, things are changing. Have to concede, muslim men have no problem about marrying widows or divorcees even with off-springs, something unacceptable to Hindu men who can never accept other men's children as their own. Not even in metros you can see widows remarrying - unless they are bollywood stars or celebrities/socialites.
prafulla Nov 13, 2012 03:01pm
Dear Najia, How bad to know that we can not protect our own widow mother to live normal life & you will agree with me single solution of this is all the females should be educated & made earning members of the family. One young lady in my office lost her husband & we felt very bad but now after 2 months of the incident she is regularly coming in office & living her normal life as she is independent & literate enough to manage her.
Sue Sturgess Nov 13, 2012 03:11am
@ Syed, there are also balanced solutions outside of Islam. In most western countries, women work, thus even if the husband dies, the woman has an income with which to support her dependent children, if there are any. Government allowances are available if the woman is unable to work. Re-marrying or living with children/ family is not the only option. Many widowed women whose children have grown up and left the family home, actually enjoy the freedom of living alone. There is no social stigma attached to either widows or divorcees. @ author The only hope does NOT lie in death. These widows can get together, give one another some social support, help one another with child-raising, ignore those who shun them and form new friendships with those who are not so narrow minded. Get out and about, have a good time and enjoy life; refuse to adhere to out-dated sterotypes and attitudes will slowly change.
guest Nov 13, 2012 02:50pm
Its very true widows were discriminated for centuries in India. But the same is not true in modern era with divorce rates surging up. Widows and divorcees today are much more independent in urban areas, though the same cannot be said about some very backward states and rural areas. As for the signs of marriage like bindi, choori - even that is changing as you know as many liberated women do not adhere to this code and don't even like wearing a mangal sutra. Ms. Blogger, i am hearing about the chopping of dead widows for the first time here. Without evidence, please don't post such a preposterous statement. By the way, is someone else writing under your name. This time, your language has disappointed me as the grammar is not pakka. Not that i care, still its unlike you to slip up like this. As for single women holding high status in Indian society, please remember Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalitha Jayaram who are king makers in Indian politics. Indira Gandhi lived most of her life as a widow and so does Sonia presently. Widowhood or divorce affects mostly illiterate, poor, rural women. In India, only one discrimination exists today: haves against have-not. Doesn't matter really whether you are a hindu or a muslim, man or woman, northerner or south Indian, believe me.
TheWholeTruth Nov 13, 2012 01:10pm
@Sue Sturgess: In most Western countries people don't marry...or get divorced promptly. They do live together or 'co-habit' form early 'teens on. The divorce rate in the US is over 50%. Between 30% to 70% children, depending on race and social status, are illegitimate. Coveting and transgressing neighbors spouse is the trend. Note the 'cultural societal mores' at the highest echelons...scandals at Presidential level, Senators, Congressmen and top star generals is the normal standard course. The lower levels are one knows who is who's daddy---except by blood tests, a rapidly growing business now. Tell me it ain't so.
Reply123 Nov 13, 2012 01:54pm
@Ranjit: Respectfully sir, you misinterpret. The rights are given in the Qur
Asif Nov 13, 2012 01:50pm
Some of these backward customs such as forcing widowed women to live in ashrams must have to do with denying them any right to the property of their late husband and neither her father's family nor her in laws wanting to support her.
Cherian (Melbourne) Nov 13, 2012 12:46pm
Treatment of widows is an area Indians should be ashamed of, even in this day and age. Fortunately attitudes are changing albeit at an extremely slow pace.
Feroz Nov 13, 2012 12:33pm
It is tough being a widow in South Asia. Things are changing but not at the pace we would like them to.
Dr. Najia Khan Nov 13, 2012 08:35am
I have experienced this attitude. My two aunts who were both widowed at an early age, refused to sit alongside their daughter and son on their wedding day as they believed that this will mean bad luck for them. My own mother, a widow since last 15 years never wears any bright colours at any occassion. Since my father's death she has always lived a reserved life. More than this i wonder at the attitude of those who are still living a happy life with their spouses, towards the widows and their children especially. It is always so easy in our society to point fingers at others and may be that's the reason why we prefer having a low profile life after the death of the spouse. In Islam, compared to Hindu religion, there are no such rituals or signs like wearing chooris, sindoor, bindya that may show the status of a women as married or not. Wonder, when our religion does not discriminate us on the basis of whatever status we have in our lives, why the society we live in does it.
Waft Nov 12, 2012 03:58pm
I agree. South Asian women play as much if not a bigger role in oppressing other women, their men. They are typical sycophant slaves, more loyal than the king himself. I think they believe it'll keep them safe and makes them feel powerful, like all abusers. Those who are abused themselves see being an abuser to be a safe and powerful position. Sad, really. No one is really at peace in the whole mess. Men or women.
rooma Nov 13, 2012 04:32am
True, women are the enemy of other women.They have power to change the society by teaching their sons and daughters the respect and rights of every human being.But they chose to degrade other women by treating them as scum ,when they gain power over someone, but when it falls on them they cry and want a way out of it.Where were u when other widows were treated as u r now being treated ?Did u stand up for them at that time?Please all women lets change our attitude and it will be first step of getting respect in return.
KKRoberts Nov 13, 2012 04:26am
I know there is a state in India ( Kerala) , which does not have a 'widow concept'.There widows will never wear separate clothes and no one treats them as the so called 'widows'.They are very well treated by their family members.They are just ladies whose husbands are died.Hindu, Muslim and Christian widows are following the same lifestyle and many of them are considering themselves as liberated women because they are running their families.This widow bashing is more a part of North Indiain , Pakistani culture.
Michelle Nov 13, 2012 03:48am
childless women are treated similarly. It is shocking but I agree with Cyrus Howell that women are conformist and it is only the reality of their situation and the reality of their pain makes them the victim, else would they have been the persecutor? We have to change our understanding of who a victim is. For that we have to stop stereotyping roles and start accepting diversity and strength. A widow does not stop posessing purpose and is still hugely capable of impacting society as is a childless woman. Perhaps as women we are our own worst enemies. Could change begins with us? Could change begin with us believing in ourselves in peace times, so that when crisis or tragedy hit we know we and our fellow woman is valuable and capable of carrying on?
Asif Nov 12, 2012 07:46pm
India has billions to spend on defense, so it is understandable that the govt of India in unable to give funds for a proper funeral for the widows. It is not in their priority list.
arslan Nov 12, 2012 07:34pm
The thing that most people dont understand is that orphans, divorcees, widows are like other human beings and are not in need sympathies but love. Sympathizing with them leads to differentiation that leads to social un comfortability thus further alienating them. Yet we do this because we are so full of vanity through which we think we can alleviate ourselves in front of others and foremost our selves. The thing with human beings is that they have justification for every wrong thing they do no matter how absurd and illogical the notion is.
global Nov 13, 2012 08:49am
who said women to go out there and work?? the thing is it neither the fault of men or women rather the TRUE CAPITALISTIC society requires each member of the family to work and so these consequences are faced. Increasing taxation, interests, loans and inflation made the grooming entity if a family to LABOUR!
salahuddin Nov 13, 2012 10:05am
Not one person has pointed out the rights our blessed prophet gave to widows and how strongly he lay emphasis on supporting and marrying widows by setting example in his personal life.
global Nov 12, 2012 07:17pm
I think its time to advocate and introduce MEN's RIGHTS!
Khawaja Jee Nov 13, 2012 08:46am
" ... It might sound ironic but the bitter truth is that divorced women are stigmatised more than widows. It is evident that in patriarchal societies, such as ours, single women are considered heretical. Any woman who wishes or chooses to live without a man is stereotyped on the basis of her decision to live alone. It is important to understand that women can survive without a male supporter and still continue to live a respectable life. The sooner we realise this the better it is for our societies, and more importantly, our future generations. " Out of it all, you got this as a synthesis?! Then why argue for women's rights to remarry. Living alone, be it man or woman is unnatural, unsustainable and leads in all probability to promiscuous society. This stigma is extremely unfortunate, and has it's roots entirely in the local culture which needs to be fought tirelessly.
FactCheck Nov 13, 2012 08:44am
Superstition about widows is essentially Hindu culture and religion that is why they were, still are, burnt to death and thus kept out of sight and out of mind.
BEA Nov 12, 2012 05:01pm
My mum was widowed at a very young age she has passed away now she once told me that at a relatives wedding she was told to stay in doors and not go near the bride because they did not want her bad luck to rub of on the bride my mum was a very brave woman she didnt care told them where to go, and this is in the UK not In India or Pakistan it show that the attitudeds of ignorent peopel no matter how educated they get no matter how much money thay have never changes. my mum (god rest her soul) had a fab life and helped so many people i am very proud of her and always will be for standing up to ignorent people.
pramod kumar Nov 13, 2012 08:42am
Dear Satti custom is finished in India and hinduism. I did not hear any case of satti in may be ;last two decades or more. But unfortunately widow is considered as bad omen and someone who brings bad luck even today .but good thing is that thing have changed a lot it is not as bad as it was 80's and before that and today's generation does not beileve in that and hpes that in next two decades when todays generation will be the elder generation of country woman will be in much condition and these blind faith will go away. Well done Faiza.
Rohit Nov 12, 2012 03:16pm
Men they are so preciuos! O woman you are an object to be owned and used! But once used u lose ur value! And God forbid if the man who owns you dies for some reason! u r to be blamed! Guard his life with ur own o Savitri! Or else be ready for the gunny bags thats the only thing which will accept u!
Rowena Nov 12, 2012 03:10pm
Wonderful article. Thank you. Values of a nomadic or an agrarian past linger too long, far too long for these good ladies who become widows. Values of a post industrial society, or even an industrial society are more relevant now that our daughters are highly educated and hold well paying jobs. Widows are treated same as widowers in advanced societies. The exception is often among migrants from cultures practising agrarian or nomadic values. Ayaan has said a few things of her experiences with women from her own country in the progressive liberal west. And how she managed to break free. It came at a cost. In regressive societies the cost of breaking free is just too high. "When Society itself is the tyrant..." by John Stuart Mill in his 'Essay on Liberty', come to mind.
raika45 Nov 12, 2012 02:42pm
I have a friend who has two nieces ,both have the MBA. Good jobs with a hefty pay ,but not willing to get married [we have a number of them in this country].When asked why . reply that what guarantee can they get that they will good and understanding husbands, including their in laws..Asked how they pass their private lives, they answer that they have a choice of who they want.After all they say most of you males do it and are not debased.Why should we. This is our life.We live it as we like it.We do not prostitute ourselves for cash for if that is what you think.We enjoy our lives to the fullest.
Zubair Nov 12, 2012 01:15pm
A person is human first then he is a widow or divorcee or anything else. Unfortunately despite the so called progression of society, it fails to treat humans as humans. Each one of us is tagged by a certain title which determines how people would behave with us. It only signifies the devolution of society! I disagree with the author when she says that patriarchal society is responsible for such discrimination. Infact the author has refuted herself by quoting ; I still remember my 'MOTHER' telling me that I should have died with him.' The women folk have a major share in creating a difficult world for one of their own kind!
Murthy Nov 12, 2012 01:27pm
The male chauvinistic attitude of almost the entire Indian subcontinent is the result of lack of education and a blind belief in age old practices. Only education can teach people to analyse everything objectively. often putting oneself in the other's shoes, to understand the injustice done to widows. While a widower is not discriminated against in any auspicious social function, why should a widow alone be considered as evil, untouchable or a harbinger of death? For eg. in Tamil language, there is no word to refer to a 'widower'!