Today is International Widow’s Day.
I just got married last summer so I cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak of losing my husband. Everything would come to a standstill. And yet life would have to go on.
But for India’s 40+ million widows, there is little room to simply grieve. Life after the death of a spouse means you are invisible … rejected … cursed.
I would be seen as cursed by the gods. Widows in India are seen as “inauspicious” – unlucky and even cursed. After all, their husbands wouldn’t have died if it hadn’t been for something these women did or said or thought. It is a punishment from the gods. Widows must simply accept their fate.
I would be abandoned by my family. Widows are nothing but a burden. They bring no economic value. And they are cursed … so their families – their own children – just turn them out. I read about a temple town near India’s capital of Delhi called the city of widows, because these women (at least 6,000 of them) have been cast out by their families or are literally left here to die. (Here’s an eye-opening photo essay from this city, Vrindavan.)
I would struggle to survive. As a woman in a nation where boys are preferred, there is a good chance that I never would have stepped foot in a school. As an illiterate widow, I would have no skills to get a good job. And because they are rejected by society, many women are forced to beg to survive.
I would be vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Young widows are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment, rape, and even being forced into prostitution to support their children.
I might as well be dead. For centuries widows were expected to throw themselves on their husband’s funeral pyres, a tradition known as sati. (Sati means “good wife” or “chaste woman”.) Sati was outlawed by the British in 1829 and made illegal by India’s government in 1987. But even if India’s widows don’t die a physical death, in modern practice these women are treated as though they are dead to the world.
The reality for India’s widows is grim. Maybe you’re thinking “what can I possibly do to help change such a hopeless situation?” But there is hope … hope that can only come when these women are introduced to Jesus … when they discover that they are cherished by the Savior. Lovingly created in the image of God.
Will you help me spread awareness about the plight of India’s widows today by sharing this post? And join with me in keeping India’s women at the front of your thoughts by signing up for email updates about the Plight of India’s Women.