Monday, 20 June 2011

India's City of Widows

Discrimination against widows has left thousands of women in West Bengal resorting to prostitution and begging to survive

In the dark, damp back-streets of Vrindavan, more commonly known as the "city of widows", India's forgotten widows chant for their supper. For a few hours, their prayers earn them enough meagre rupees to survive. These women were once revered as mothers, sisters and daughters; some will die in Vrindavan without seeing any relatives again.

"She becomes a zero and all her powers are lost," says Mohini Giri, the former chair for the commission of women in India and a widow herself. She explains that many conservative Indian families see widows as a liability. Cast out of the family home, they live the rest of their lives in poverty and isolation. "When [a woman] loses her husband and becomes a widow, she loses her identity. A woman deprived, abandoned, malnourished will naturally have a high mortality rate."

For the more than 40 million widows in India – 10% of the country's female population – life is what some have described as "living sati", a reference to the now the prohibited practice of widow burning. Some are as young as 10 years old and are forced to spend the rest of their days in seclusion or earning a living through prostitution...

Read on the Guardian: India's City of Widows

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