International Widows’ Day observed globally

Jun 23, 2017 11:50 IST

23 June: International Widows’ Day

The International Widows’ Day was observed globally on 23 June 2017. The day is an opportunity for action towards achieving full rights and recognition for widows, who have been living with an invisible status for too long invisible.

The lack of reliable data remains one of the main obstacles to developing the policies and programmes to address the poverty, violence and discrimination faced by widows. Hence, there is a need for more research and statistics separated by marital status, sex and age, in order to help reveal the incidence of widow abuse and illustrate the situation of widows.

Action Points

• Governments need to take action to uphold their commitments to ensure the rights of widows as enshrined in international law, including the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and the Convention on the rights of the child.

• States need to strengthen their judicial system and sensitise the judicial officials in order to defend widows’ rights and address their issues. 

• Programmes and policies for ending violence against widows and their children, poverty alleviation, education and other support to widows of all ages also need to be undertaken.

• In post-conflict situations, widows should be brought in to participate fully in peace building and reconciliation processes to ensure that they contribute to sustainable peace and security.

Empowering widows by giving them access to adequate healthcare, education, decent work, full participation in decision-making and public life and lives free of violence and abuse, would give them a chance to build a secure life and also protect their children and avoid the cycle of inter-generational poverty and deprivation.

Background 

• The United Nations General Assembly decided to observe International Widows’ Day on 23 June each year through a resolution that was adopted on 21 December 2010 to give special recognition to the situation of widows of all ages and across regions and cultures.

• The abuse of widows and their children constitutes one of the most serious violations of human rights and obstacles to development today. 

• Millions of the world’s widows endure extreme poverty, ostracism, violence, homelessness, ill health and discrimination in law and custom.

• Many widows in traditional societies have no rights or very limited rights to inheritance or land ownership under customary and religious law.

• Without inheritance rights, they often find themselves financially insecure and totally dependent on the charity of their husband’s relatives.

• In India, where widowhood is stigmatized and seen as a source of shame, thousands of widows are disowned by relatives and made homeless, forcing them to seek unskilled work such as domestic labourers or turn to begging or prostitution.

• Widows in developed countries also face many difficulties including loss of insurance coverage, difficulties in accessing credit, becoming solely responsible for childcare and in some cases, they also become liable to pay the debts of their deceased spouse.

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