Caring for the Half-Widows

Half-widows, as they’re currently called in Kashmir, actually suffer all over the world – from India to Libya, Chile to Eastern Europe. Some have more difficulties than others, but all share one thing in common: their husbands vanished because of forced disappearance.

Forced disappearance – also known as “enforced disappearance” or just “disappearance,” happens when a state detains someone but denies his arrest or hides his whereabouts, thus leaving him outside the protection of the law.

Amidst the pain of losing their husbands, half-widows endure the pain of searching – often unsuccessfully for years – for any word on the men’s fates.

In addition, half-widows suffer as non-widows. Because they can’t prove their husbands’ deaths, they often face barriers to benefits like life insurance or governmental aid programs. Some have no livelihood or education outside of their spouse, and certain fundamentalist cultures do not permit them to remarry without labeling the relationship adultery.

Half-widows also run the same risks as any other impoverished, single females in a poor country. They have very little physical protection, if any, and run a high risk of losing their land.

Here is how you can help these extremely vulnerable women:

Support widow’s rights. Groups like International Justice Mission (IJM) and many localized non-profits fight to protect widows from legal and illegal oppression.

Fight to end disappearances in and by the United States. The US has enforced disappearances for the last decade as part of the “War on Terror.” Despite promises by Obama to the contrary, our secret prisons continue to violate international human rights law and create half-widows in countries near and far. Those women deserve justice, and so do our consciences. Make transparency on this issue a key voting point in 2012.

Fight to end disappearances internationally. Human rights advocacy groups like Amnesty International speak out regularly against forced disappearances worldwide.

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