Poverty Common For Widows - Trans World Radio Canada

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  • Jul21Fri

    Poverty Common For Widows

    July 21, 2017 by TWR Canada Women's Ministry Team
    Filed Under:
    Issues Women Face

    Poverty Common For Those Unfortunate Enough To Outlive Their Husbands

    In many cultures around the world, the death of a husband brings a distinct stigma that leads to abuse, property-grabbing, exile, and almost certainly poverty. Widows are seen as bad luck. No matter the husband’s cause of death, the widow is to blame and is shunned by her in-laws. Even in countries where the law protects the inheritance rights of widows and female children -- tradition does not, and especially in rural areas tradition trumps the law.


    Hindu widows are less likely now to be burned on their husband’s funeral pyre, but they are commonly considered unlucky and cast out. Some are forced into prostitution. Others congregate in cities for widows, like Vrindavan. Estimates vary, but there are somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 widows living in Vrindavan. Some of them sing for hours for their food at temples, a lucky few end up in shelters run by non-profits or get one of the 500 or so beds provided by the government. The rest end up on the street begging for food.

    Poverty is preferable to the abuse they endured from their families following the death of their husbands. Read more about this issue here.


    The law protects the inheritance rights of widows and female children, but tradition says a woman cannot own land. To own land is very important. Without land, you cannot provide for your family or generate an income. When a man dies, tradition says the land belongs to the husband’s family and the wife is a piece of the property like the plants or animals. She may be forced to marry her husband’s relative or simply forced off the land.

    The law is on their side, but proving they own the land is difficult; the courts are hopelessly backlogged, and those who should protect widows can be bribed, threatened off, or are simply not interested.

    There is a very interesting documentary piece produced by National Geographic earlier this year in partnership with the International Justice Mission that describes the plight of these widows and others. Poverty is a complex problem that won’t easily be solved. Christ promised we would always have the poor with us. But join us in praying for those widows. Many are dealt multiple blows. Not only are they trying to overcome the loss of a spouse and being a single parent, but they may also face the loss of their livelihood and income, their family and home, even their lives.

    Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:27 (NIV)