NHRC Issue Advisory to Centre and State to Ensure Widow Safety

  • 13 Jun 2024

In June, 2024, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued an advisory to Centre, State governments and UT Administrations to ensure widows’ welfare and protection of their human rights.

Key Points

  • The commission has advised to ensure that the benefits of welfare schemes for widows reach to them through a single-window system.
  • The advisory focused on ten key areas, which include ensuring development and maintenance of shelter homes for them, equal access to the property, protection from exploitation, provision of skill development, access to easy banking and financial independence and healthcare accessibility.

Other Recommendations of NHRC

  • Have a centralized database of all government-run homes for widows on the website of the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development (MoWCD), as well as the websites of all the concerned state departments;
  • MoWCD may deploy a team at the district level to visit these Ashrams and homes quarterly to monitor their living conditions including health, recreational and skill development facilities to help them get employment and financial independence;
  • The Collector & District Magistrate/ Deputy Commissioner should be made accountable for the implementation of various welfare schemes regarding food, shelter, dignity and the protection of property;
  • Constitute a dedicated “Widows’ Cell” in each district that can serve as a single window for schemes for widows;
  • Ensure all shelter homes registration with the Widows’ Cell and that these are not overcrowded beyond their capacities;
  • AADHAAR cards of all widows residing in and around the allotted public and private shelter homes should be made to ensure monitoring of the benefits of various schemes to them;
  • Provide proper identity cards to the widows to enable them to access the benefits of social welfare schemes and ensure they are not denied these for want of marriage registration certificates;
  • Ensure proper implementation of their legal right to succession of the property by providing legal aid and creating awareness among them about this right;
  • Make efforts to enrol them in education programmes like the New India Literacy Programme (NILP) and other programmes to give them at least foundational literacy, including financial literacy. Shelter homes and Ashrams may partner with local NGOs to encourage and provide education to widows;
  • Encourage the creation of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) by widows for their self-employment and entrepreneurial activities;
  • Concerned agencies should ensure that all widows have a personal bank account under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana;
  • For widows in need of mental health support and care, specialized care should be arranged and recovery should be enabled;
  • Encourage utilization of the knowledge and experiences of widows in Aanganwadis, orphanages, and primary schools, to give them a sense of purpose and enhance children's life skills;
  • Widows desiring to remarry or find partners should be linked to appropriate agencies/ NGOs;
  • The widow should have the option of returning to the Shelter home without undergoing fresh formalities in case the marriage or relationship fails, or the spouse or partner dies;
  • The state government may provide suitable funds for marriage under existing schemes for widow remarriage also;
  • There is a need for suitable legislation to deal with the plight of abandoned widows, such as that against Sati Pratha;
  • The shelter homes and Ashrams should connect them to NGOs and the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to provide them with the necessary assistance;
  • Last rites of the widows should be carried out in a dignified manner by the shelter homes/ Ashrams. It should be done in accordance with the rituals and faith of the destitute widows;
  • The destitute widows should be encouraged to participate in social and political activities, if necessary, by providing horizontal reservation in panchayats and municipal bodies;
  • Poverty indicators tailored to widows should be developed. Qualitative data should be prepared to understand the challenges faced by widows;