Last night I watched a program about widows in India that absolutely stunned me. Widowhood is the most neglected issue in India. Becoming a widow there is more than a living death because India’s society and culture views her as a bad omen. She is forced to live a lonely and depressed life.
Remarriage and acceptance for an Indian widow is very rare. Her health is affected due to malnutrition, poverty, and lack of medical aid because her family kicks her out.
Ostracized by society, thousands of India’s widows flock to the holy city of Vrindavan waiting to die. They are found on side streets, hunched over with walking canes, their heads shaved and their pain etched by hundreds of deep wrinkles in their faces. Every morning these ladies go to a special “temple” where they chant the name of their god for 3 hours so that they can receive a bag of rice and 6 rupees in order to subsist until the next day where the process is repeated all over again.
These Hindu widows, the poorest of the poor, are shunned from society when their husbands die, not for religious reasons, but because of tradition — and because they’re seen as a financial drain on their families.
They cannot remarry. They must not wear jewelry. They are forced to shave their heads and typically wear white. Even their shadows are considered bad luck and if an event is planned and a widow is anywhere nearby, that event is immediately cancelled.
There are 34 million Indian widows and 8% of the total population consists of widows. Only 2,5 % of men are widowers. Deprivation causing mortality is 85% higher among women who are widows.
After watching that program, I am thankful to be a widow in the US. Our country and our churches aren’t perfect, but I am not kicked to the curb by my 4 daughters and do not have to go to the city of widows carrying a few clothes in a bag and wait to die.