Friday 18 May 2007

Unseen go their wounds : Unheard go their woes

Absence of proof of death makes life miserable for half - widows, women whose husbands are missing in a conflict situation in Kashmir. This is the irony they are faced with and they continue to live with uncertain future.Waiting for twelve years (after the disappearance of her husband) Sara Bano (name changed) re-married but faced the wrath of the society in general and family in particular. “I had children to feed and had no other source of income and nobody helped me. Now, when I am re-married, they don’t let me live in peace, either. They keep taunting me in a way or other. The fact is that hungry stomachs cannot be fed on illusions and hopes”, Sara maintained.Sara does not stand alone in this struggle. Waheeda, Shahzada and many others follow and the list is unending.Waheeda Bano (name changed) lost her husband in 1991. Left with six children she found it impossible to feed them. Living in abject poverty, her pains never receded. “They kept piling up and nobody offered me a genuine help. I was left on my own’, said Waheeda sorrowfully.Consequently, Waheeda was forced to do petty jobs in the neighbouring houses, but that could not make a sustainable earning for her. “I worked as a labourer, but earned a meagre amount. The day’s labour could not, at times fetch me an amount in double figures and many a times, we had nothing to eat and had to satisfy our belly with water”, said the mother of six children in an awful tone with tears rolling down her cheeks.After putting in so much labour and exhaustion, for about four years, her own health deteriorated and one of her kidneys had to be removed on health grounds. Ailing Waheeda finally went for re-marriage. “No one objected to this decision and why should they? No one comes forward once you are in need, then why to pay heed to them, even if they interfere”, she stated. Shahzada Bano another widow from district Srinagar, in her early thirties was suggested by her acquaintance to re-marry. She had no source of income to sustain herself and her two children. She however, dropped the idea on the ground that her in-laws, in such a situation, wanted her to surrender her girl children which are two in number. In her words, “How is it possible to\n leave my two kids and that too in a situation where they (in-laws) have already drove us out of their house”, Shahzada argued. Caught in between, Shahzada is tossed from pillar to post in order earn a morsel for her younger siblings. Society is not always encouraging these “silent victim’s” second marriage. Consequently, women have to do menial jobs to keep the pot boiling. Absence of organizations, both government and voluntary, working for such women, at the grass root level, has further aggravated the situation. Most of these widows and half-widows are illiterate and unemployed. Suddenly a situation arises where they have to shoulder the entire responsibility of their family. “They are caught in the dual responsibility of managing and maintaining the family. In this process they neglect their ownself and fall prey to various curable and incurable ailments”, observed Dr. Rukhsana Khan, a general practitioner in Srinagar. Emotionally,\n economically and psychologically such woman feel detached, her status in the society changes the moment she looses her husband. Sheema, a social activist described society as supportive towards widows and half widows. In her opinion relatives of this suffered lot encourage them to re-marry. She goes on to say that widows and half widows face innumerable problems and it becomes very difficult for them to sustain the family once the entire burden is shifted to their shoulders, as restrictions are imposed on their re-marriage. After putting in so much labour and exhaustion, for about four years, her own health deteriorated and one of her kidneys had to be removed on health grounds. Ailing Waheeda finally went for re-marriage. “No one objected to this decision and why should they? No one comes forward once you are in need, then why to pay heed to them, even if they interfere”, she stated.Shahzada Bano another widow from district Srinagar, in her early thirties was suggested by her acquaintance to re-marry. She had no source of income to sustain herself and her two children. She however, dropped the idea on the ground that her in-laws, in such a situation, wanted her to surrender her girl children which are two in number. In her words, “How is it possible to leave my two kids and that too in a situation where they (in-laws) have already drove us out of their house”, Shahzada argued. Caught in between, Shahzada is tossed from pillar to post in order earn a morsel for her younger siblings.Society is not always encouraging these “silent victim’s” second marriage. Consequently, women have to do menial jobs to keep the pot boiling. Absence of organizations, both government and voluntary, working for such women, at the grass root level, has further aggravated the situation.Most of these widows and half-widows are illiterate and unemployed. Suddenly a situation arises where they have to shoulder the entire responsibility of their family. “They are caught in the dual responsibility of managing and maintaining the family. In this process they neglect their ownself and fall prey to various curable and incurable ailments”, observed Dr. Rukhsana Khan, a general practitioner in Srinagar.Emotionally, economically and psychologically such woman feel detached, her status in the society changes the moment she looses her husband.Sheema, a social activist described society as supportive towards widows and half widows. In her opinion relatives of this suffered lot encourage them to re-marry. She goes on to say that widows and half widows face innumerable problems and it becomes very difficult for them to sustain the family once the entire burden is shifted to their shoulders, as restrictions are imposed on their re-marriage.Contrary to her, her counterpart, Dr. Rouf Mohi-ud-Din, social activist and consultant Child Rights and You (CRY) holds an entirely different view. He does not find society cooperative in this regard. According to him, it is mostly women who oppose her if she decides to remarry. “Local support system is lacking. It is hard to convince families for her remarriage especially her in-laws and in certain cases they\n themselves are not willing to re-marry. In case of natural death of husband, widows remarry. The widows who do jobs also go for second marriage as they are financially secure and very few people point fingers towards their second marriage. On the whole, society dislikes such practices especially in present context. Transfer of property does not take place in most of the cases and that too creates additional problems for the widow or half-widows”, explained Dr. Rouf. He insisted that the survival of 15,000 - 25,000 young widows is not only lurking, but it is a grave issue that needs to be addressed with care and caution. “Islam, the dominant religion being practised in the valley allows woman to go for re-marriage after three months and ten days. This period is known as IDAT and if she carries a child then again the same period of time is prescribed, but after the birth of the child”, he added. The sufferings of those who share the maximum heat of\n the conflict around go unseen. Failing to meet their family related needs and requirements re-marriage could have been an alternative available to them. But social stigma, traditional taboos and other compulsions come in between. Sometimes the circumstances leave them with no option and they get captured in between the ravages of time and conflict. In the absence of head of the family, many try to carry the responsibility of their family to the extent they can. Whereas others fail to share the responsibility and are bent under the burden of responsibility, opt for re-marriage. Sophiya, advocate J&K High Court considers remarriage of widows and half-widows as the best option. She even finds society mature enough to accept it but attaches a rider to it saying that the sympathy from the common masses is timely. Being permissible under Islam, she finds no reason why people should oppose it and finds re-marriage as a sensible decision.Contrary to her, her counterpart, Dr. Rouf Mohi-ud-Din, social activist and consultant Child Rights and You (CRY) holds an entirely different view. He does not find society cooperative in this regard. According to him, it is mostly women who oppose her if she decides to remarry.“Local support system is lacking. It is hard to convince families for her remarriage especially her in-laws and in certain cases they themselves are not willing to re-marry. In case of natural death of husband, widows remarry. The widows who do jobs also go for second marriage as they are financially secure and very few people point fingers towards their second marriage. On the whole, society dislikes such practices especially in present context. Transfer of property does not take place in most of the cases and that too creates additional problems for the widow or half-widows”, explained Dr. Rouf.He insisted that the survival of 15,000 - 25,000 young widows is not only lurking, but it is a grave issue that needs to be addressed with care and caution. “Islam, the dominant religion being practised in the valley allows woman to go for re-marriage after three months and ten days. This period is known as IDAT and if she carries a child then again the same period of time is prescribed, but after the birth of the child”, he added.The sufferings of those who share the maximum heat of the conflict around go unseen. Failing to meet their family related needs and requirements re-marriage could have been an alternative available to them. But social stigma, traditional taboos and other compulsions come in between. Sometimes the circumstances leave them with no option and they get captured in between the ravages of time and conflict.In the absence of head of the family, many try to carry the responsibility of their family to the extent they can. Whereas others fail to share the responsibility and are bent under the burden of responsibility, opt for re-marriage.Sophiya, advocate J&K High Court considers remarriage of widows and half-widows as the best option. She even finds society mature enough to accept it but attaches a rider to it saying that the sympathy from the common masses is timely. Being permissible under Islam, she finds no reason why people should oppose it and finds re-marriage as a sensible decision.“This can help her to start her life afresh and above all she can find financial support and security. In case her ex-husband is alive, the children will go to him under the Muslim Personal Law especially the male child or to the grandparents”, she said. But if economically she is sound, she does not need to remarry even if she has children, Sophiya opined. However at the same time she believes that children should not be made an excuse with her feelings being looked into properly. For children, other alternatives like sending them to boarding schools can be looked into, feels the advocate. Referring to local traditions, where in many cases widows have been re-married to their brother-in-laws, Sophiya feels that under such circumstances both widow and her children are safe and secure. “NGO’s have a role to play here. Not only can they help them to sustain, but they can provide them with proper counseling and the same would help these\n widows in the long run”, she suggested. Widows and half widows suffer on all fronts, she admitted. Financially they are dependent and at the same time they have to support their children and to look after their own security as well. “Society is not that much supportive. Sympathy is shown, but that is timely. Assistance in real sense is hardly provided and sometimes, they even get exploited”, admitted Sophiya. Either shelter homes, where both mother and children could live together should be provided or they should be assisted on economic fronts, in terms of providing them financial assistance so that they can set up their own self-employment units, so that they can earn and live their life, she added. “Economic independence should be taken care of,” insisted the female advocate. Jammu and Kashmir Women Initiative for Peace and Disarmament (J&KWIPD), a member organization of J&K Coalition of Civil Society (J&KCCS) claims to\n help widows and half widows with free legal aid and counseling.“This can help her to start her life afresh and above all she can find financial support and security. In case her ex-husband is alive, the children will go to him under the Muslim Personal Law especially the male child or to the grandparents”, she said.But if economically she is sound, she does not need to remarry even if she has children, Sophiya opined. However at the same time she believes that children should not be made an excuse with her feelings being looked into properly. For children, other alternatives like sending them to boarding schools can be looked into, feels the advocate.Referring to local traditions, where in many cases widows have been re-married to their brother-in-laws, Sophiya feels that under such circumstances both widow and her children are safe and secure. “NGO’s have a role to play here. Not only can they help them to sustain, but they can provide them with proper counseling and the same would help these widows in the long run”, she suggested.Widows and half widows suffer on all fronts, she admitted. Financially they are dependent and at the same time they have to support their children and to look after their own security as well. “Society is not that much supportive. Sympathy is shown, but that is timely. Assistance in real sense is hardly provided and sometimes, they even get exploited”, admitted Sophiya.Either shelter homes, where both mother and children could live together should be provided or they should be assisted on economic fronts, in terms of providing them financial assistance so that they can set up their own self-employment units, so that they can earn and live their life, she added. “Economic independence should be taken care of,” insisted the female advocate.Jammu and Kashmir Women Initiative for Peace and Disarmament (J&KWIPD), a member organization of J&K Coalition of Civil Society (J&KCCS) claims to help widows and half widows with free legal aid and counseling.Parvez Imroz, patron J&K Coalition of Civil Society says that under normal conditions, widow remarriage is not opposed and it is their legal right under Muslim Law. But in the prevailing situation, society does not willingly support these marriages. “KWIPD and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) adopt those families who have no other source of income and those who have discontinued their studies. This is not the final answer to their problems, but definitely it makes some difference”, observed Parvez Imroz. “Personally, I think they should go for re-marriage otherwise they\n have no option whatsoever. In many cases, after seven years they have remarried. More reaction has come from the women-folk itself. Those family members who have certain interests oppose such marriages. They want to exert control them and in case they want to remarry it is considered as a revolt. But since it is permissible under Islam, so it should be encouraged”, he said. Parvez added that most of the widows and half-widows re-marry because of the economic factor. Afroza Qadir, a political activist emphasized for special reservation to be given to half widows and widows in all the fields. “Not only orphanages, but widow-ages should be there and personally I am after that. I am also trying to establish small units for women especially widows so that they are financially sound and secure. They should come forward to carve a niche for themselves,” Afroza stressed. Abdul Rashid Bhat, Assistant Professor Shah-I-Hamdan Institute, Faculty of Social\n Science, University of Kashmir describes, “Widow is one whose husband has died in whatever way. Islam, however, allows her remarriage even Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) followed the practice”. Her age and her liabilities, her economic prosperity, psychological harmony necessitates her re-marriage, he added.“In addition, skill development training is provided to them. Then they are provided with raw material and are helped in marketing the finished goods as well so that they are able to sustain on their own”, said a female activist associated with this organization.Parvez Imroz, patron J&K Coalition of Civil Society says that under normal conditions, widow remarriage is not opposed and it is their legal right under Muslim Law. But in the prevailing situation, society does not willingly support these marriages.“KWIPD and Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) adopt those families who have no other source of income and those who have discontinued their studies. This is not the final answer to their problems, but definitely it makes some difference”, observed Parvez Imroz.“Personally, I think they should go for re-marriage otherwise they have no option whatsoever. In many cases, after seven years they have remarried. More reaction has come from the women-folk itself. Those family members who have certain interests oppose such marriages. They want to exert control them and in case they want to remarry it is considered as a revolt. But since it is permissible under Islam, so it should be encouraged”, he said. Parvez added that most of the widows and half-widows re-marry because of the economic factor.Afroza Qadir, a political activist emphasized for special reservation to be given to half widows and widows in all the fields. “Not only orphanages, but widow-ages should be there and personally I am after that. I am also trying to establish small units for women especially widows so that they are financially sound and secure. They should come forward to carve a niche for themselves,” Afroza stressed.Abdul Rashid Bhat, Assistant Professor Shah-I-Hamdan Institute, Faculty of Social Science, University of Kashmir describes, “Widow is one whose husband has died in whatever way. Islam, however, allows her remarriage even Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) followed the practice”. Her age and her liabilities, her economic prosperity, psychological harmony necessitates her re-marriage, he added.“It has been in practice in past as well as present, though it has declined at present. Changing social status is the main reason. Rate of re-marriage has definitely declined”, he observed. “It is a phenomenon here and some NGO’s are doing a good job, but still more needs to be done. As far as society is concerned, I feel people are more self-centered. The issue needs to be addressed at the earliest,” emphasized the academician.


BY AFSANA RASHID
SRINAGAR

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