Status of Widows in India
Believe it or not, India has over 40 million widows - the highest in the world. It is a paradox that in this nation which has a glorious history with incidents glorifying women, widows are shunned from society. A widow regardless of her age has to don a drab garment and give up other adornments and confine herself to a corner of the house. A widow even has to tonsure her head in certain communities. She is not allowed to attend weddings or other celebrations as her presence is considered a bad omen.
A widower on the other hand does not suffer any differential treatment. Rather he is allowed to remarry even before a year of mourning has passed. Although widow marriages are becoming common in the cities the situation is still dismal in the rural areas. Not only a widow becomes financially dependent but also suffers the indignity of becoming a social outcaste. In Globalized India, where even in wealthy families wives own no assets directly, widows are rendered superfluous and terminally dependent. In poorer families they are just thrown out.
In the holy Hindu City of Vrindavan, a place that draws devotees from around the globe, thousands of widows live in shame and poverty. Hindus around the world know Vrindavan for its temples but in India it is known as a city for widows. They flock to the ashrams of Vrindavan, where they are provided with the daily rations of a cup of rice and 7 cents. The majority of the widows are ignorant of their basic rights because they come from rural areas where little has changed for centuries.
There are so many Non Governmental Organizations who work for the rehabilitation of widows. But only a small percentage of the widows go to them for any help. There is a fervent need to spread awareness among women especially in the rural areas. They need the assurance that people who care are there to support them no matter what happens.