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Widows for Peace through Democracy, (WPD).
Registered Charity Number: 1117334
36 Faroe Road
Shepherds Bush
London
W14 0EP
United Kingdom
 

Advisory Board

Elsie Onubogu, Gender Advisor Commonwealth Secretariat
Brita Schmidt, Global Programme Officer, Women for Women
Baroness Sally Greengross (Commissioner Equality Council)
Baroness Haleh Afshar (Chair, Women’s Studies, York University)
Baroness Helena Kennedy
Baroness Joyce Gould, Chair – UK Women’s National Commission (WNC)
Baroness Shirley Williams
Baroness Emma Nicholson
Charlotte Onslow (Co-Ordinator, GAPS UK (Gender Action on Peace and Security)
Lady Fiona Hodgson, President – Conservative Women’s Committee
Dr. Pat Holden (former DFID Senior Social Development Advisor)
Maggie Baxter (former Director – Womankind Worldwide, UK Programme for Women
Mark Muller, Chair – UK Bar Human Rights Committee

WIDOWS’ CHARTER

NOTING THAT ALL WOMEN ARE EQUAL before the law and that the human rights of women are inalienable, universal and non-transferable,

NOTING THAT IN MANY COUNTRIES WIDOWS SUFFER FROM LOW STATUS, DISCRIMINATION, VIOLENCE AND LACK OF LEGAL RIGHTS

NOTING THAT IN MANY COMMUNITIES WIDOWS ARE STEREOTYPED AS EVIL, BRINGING BAD LUCK, AND THAT SOCIAL ATTITUDES TO WIDOWHOOD OBSTRUCT THEM FROM FULLY PARTICIPATING IN CIVIL SOCIETY

NOTING THAT IN SPITE OF INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC LAWS GUARANTEEING EQUALITY IN INHERITANCE, LAND OWNERSHIP, AND CRIMINALISING VIOLENCE TO WOMEN WIDOWS ARE OFTEN BANNED FROM INHERITING, EVICTED FROM THEIR HOMES, DEPRIVED OF ALL THEIR PROPERTY, AND LEFT IN DESTITUTION

NOTING THAT WIDOWS ARE OFTEN VICTIMS OF DEGRADING AND LIFE-THREATENING TRADITIONAL PRACTICES IN THE CONTEXT OF FUNERAL AND BURIAL PRACTICES

NOTING THAT WIDOWS, IN THE CONTEXT OF THE AIDS PANDEMIC, SUFFER STIGMA AND ABUSE, HAVE SPECIAL HEALTHCARE NEEDS BUT ARE ALSO KEY CARERS OF CHILDREN, ORPHANS AND OTHER DEPENDENTS.


NOTING THAT THERE IS NO SPECIAL REFERENCE TO DISCRIMINATION AND ABUSE OF WIDOWS IN THE BEIJING PLATFORM FOR ACTION

NOTING THAT WIDOWS ARE KEY SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC PLAYERS IN DEVELOPMENT
REAFFIRMING THE IMPORTANT ROLE THAT WIDOWS DO AND MAY PLAY IN THE RESOLUTION AND PREVENTION OF CONFLICTS

EXPRESSING CONCERN THAT THE IMPACT OF THIS TREATMENT OF WIDOWS HAS SEVERE AND NEGATIVE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE WHOLE OF SOCIETY

IN PARTICULAR BECAUSE THE POVERTY OF WIDOWS DEPRIVES THEIR CHLDREN OF THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS TO SHELTER, FOOD, EDUCATION AND THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD

RECOGNISING THE URGENT NEED TO MAINSTREAM A WIDOWS’ PERSPECTIVE IN ALL POLICY DEVELOPMENTS AND DECISIONS

REAFFIRMING THE NEED TO IMPLEMENT FULLY ALL INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMANITARIAN LAW THAT PROTECTS THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND GIRLS DURING AND AFTER CONFICT AS WELL AS IN TIMES OF PEACE

REQUIRES ALL GOVERNMENTS TO USE ALL MEASURES POSSIBLE TO ELIMINATE THIS DISCRIMINATION, AND TO WORK WITH WIDOWS’ GROUPS TO ASSESS THEIR NUMBERS AND THEIR SITUATION SO AS TO DEVELOP POLICIES AND LAWS TO ALLEVIATE THEIR ISOLATION AND POVERTY, AND ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR VALUABLE SOCIAL CAPITAL.

ARTICLE 1

Widows shall enjoy equality with all women and men, irrespective of their age or marital status.

Any treatment of a widow which differs from the treatment, legally, socially, economically, of a widower shall be deemed to be discriminatory and therefore illegal.

Widows shall not be discriminated against, in word or deed, either in family and private life, or in community and public life.

The State is guilty, by omission, of breach of the law, if it implicitly condones discrimination and abuse of the widow by non-state actors, such as family members.

ARTICLE 2

a) Widows shall have the right to inherit from their husband’s estate, whether or not the deceased spouse left a will.
b) Widows may not be disinherited
c) Widows may not be “inherited” as wives or concubines to their husband’s brother, nor forcibly placed in a “levirate” relationship, nor forcibly made pregnant by a relative in order to continue producing children in her dead husband’s name.
d) A widow has the right to remarry
e) A widow must be free to marry someone of her own choice
f) Polygamy and temporary marriage is forbidden.
g) “Honour Killings” are murder
h) Daughters shall inherit equally with sons
i) “Property-Grabbing” and “chasing-off” are criminal offences, punishable as the most serious category of crime
j) Anyone who attempts or manages to deprive a widow of any of her property, take custody of her children, without an order of a judge or magistrate shall be guilt of the most serious category of crime
k) Anyone, whether a relative or a stranger, who seeks or manages to gain control of the dead husband’s bank account, insurance policy, accident compensation claims, without the order of the Court is guilty of the most serious category of crime
l) Free Legal Aid shall be given to widows in all inheritance, property and personal status disputes

ARTICLE 3

a) Anyone who arranges or coerces a widow to participate in harmful traditional practices in the context of funeral and burial rites shall be guilty of the most serious category of crime ( for example: ritual cleansing through sex; scarification; isolation; restrictions on diet and dress endangering mental and physical health)
b) Anyone who has sexual relations with a widow in the context of funeral and burial rites shall be guilt of Rape, and subject to the maximum penalty.
c) Anyone who forcibly deprives the widow of custody of her children shall be guilty of a serious offence
d) Anyone who physically, mentally or sexually abuses a widow is guilty of the most serious category of crime
e) Anyone who verbally abuses a widow by calling her insulting names shall be guilty of an offence.

ARTICLE 4

Any restrictions on a widow’s mobility, even where based on “custom” which continues after the 14th day after the death of the spouse are unlawful and anyone responsible for restraining the widow is guilty of a criminal offence
a) Any restrictions, due to her marital status, on a widow’s freedom to access social, health and education services are unlawful
b) Any restrictions concerning domicile, diet, clothing, life-style imposed on a widow against a will are unlawful
c) All restrictions on widows’ accessing health care, including family planning services, are unlawful.
d) Any restriction on a widow’s right to citizenship, a passport and freedom to travel is unlawful.



ARTICLE 5

All appropriate measures shall be taken to eliminate discrimination against widows in the field of employment, in particular:
a) The right to the same employment opportunities and remuneration as other men and women
b) It is an offence under the Employment Acts for anyone to dismiss a woman from her employment because she has become a widow and must take some reasonable time off work for the funeral rites is guilty of an offence
c) It is an offence to refuse to employ a widow because she is wearing mourning clothes
d) Suitable child-care and elderly care support shall be provided to widows who work outside the home.

ARTICLE 6

a) The term “violence against women” includes any act of gender-based violence against a widow that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to her, including threats of such acts, coercion, or deprivation of liberty.
b) No widow-abuse may be justified by citing custom, tradition or religion.
c) All appropriate measures shall be taken, through, for example public education and training of opinion leaders, to change the negative stereotyping of widows
d) No relative shall detain a widow in his or her household as an unpaid domestic worker without registering before the court and being subject to regular monitoring and inspection by the social services.
e) All appropriate measures shall be taken to protect widows and their children from sexual exploitation, prostitution and trafficking of women and girls.
f) It is no defence to this law that the widow consented to be victim of the alleged violence.

ARTICLE 7

a) All appropriate measures shall be taken to ensure that those dependent on widows – children, other orphans, the old, sick and frail people – are identified that gaps in assistance are filled.
b) Where appropriate, widows should receive financial support to balance opportunity costs in sending children to school.
c) Appropriate measures shall be taken to eliminate discrimination against widows in areas of economic and civil life. In particular
(i)The right to a pension and family benefits
(ii) Elimination of delaying bureaucratic barriers to widows accessing pensions
(iii)Elimination of corruption in the dispensing of pensions to widows
(iv)Special measures to assist illiterate widows access their economic and legal rights
d) Widows’ children should have priority in assessment for education scholarships.
e) Widows should be recognised as carers, particularly in the case of infection with AIDS and be given special support to allow them to fulfil this role fully.

ARTICLE 8

WIDOWS OF CONFLICT AND POST CONFLICT
a) Recalling SCR Resolution 1325, and recognising the huge increase in the numbers of widows and wives of the missing as a consequence of armed conflict
b) Noting the absence of reliable data on the numbers and situations of widows and wives of the missing.
c) Recognising that many widows of war have also been victims of rape and sexual violence
d) Recognising also the extreme vulnerability of widows and daughters of widows in the instability of societies in the aftermath of war
e) Noting the unique role widows play as custodians of the social fabric of communities
f) Noting also widows’ unique roles as peace builders and peace makers, through their ability to link hands with widows across ethnic, relgious and national divides
g) Recognising that years after Peace Accords are signed widows of war continue to struggle to survive in refugee and IDP camps and are unable to return to their original homes
h) Recognising the particular individual security issues for women without male protectors
i) Noting the alarming rise in domestic violence as well as sexual violence in the community in the post conflict situation
j) Expressing concern at the vulnerability of widows and their children to rape, forced prostitution and trafficking by criminals, occupying troops, so-called peace-keeper forces
k) Expressing concern that particular issues of widows and wives of the missing must be on the peace negotiations and accords agendas
l) Noting the many numbers of orphans, sick, old, wounded and traumatised people dependent on widows for their survival
m) Understanding that widows are often the sole support of AIDS victims and may be infected themselves

CALLS all actors involved in negotiating and implementing peace agreements to address the special needs of widows and wives of the missing and ensure the protection and respect for their human rights.

CALLS on all actors to support widows to band together in associations so that they can collectively undertake MAPPING AND PROFILING PROJECTS to fill the gap in statistics on their situation.

CALLS on all actors to ensure that widows’ are represented in these negotiations so that their particular concerns, for example:

i. rights of safe return
ii. inheritance and property rights, land allocation and ownership
iii. protection of widow witnesses at national and international tribunals
iv. personal status guarantees in constitutional and legislative reform
v. protection of widow witnesses at national and international tribunals
vi. counselling and health care for widowed victims of sexual abuse and rape
vii. addressing needs of widows who are refugees or internally displaced, and widow asylum seekers
viii. support widows’ associations to map and profile themselves and disseminate the information


ARTICLE 9

Government will support the establishment of a National Federation of WIDOWS, with clusters and sub-groups in every town and sets of villages so that information on the needs of widows is available and can inform policy making at the national and local level.
a) All appropriate measures shall be taken to support widows organising themselves into self-help and empowerment groups
b) These groups shall be acknowledged as being decisive components of civil society, to be involved as participants in the development of social, economic policies affecting their situation.
c) Support shall be given to the establishment of a National Federation of Widows’ Groups with an advisory status to government.
d) Widows’ shelters and legal aid centres for widows shall be established.
e) Statistic and Data shall be collected and a situational analysis undertaken to ascertain the true numbers, needs and roles of widows in society.
f) In recognition of the gap in knowledge, Governments will explore alternative methods of collecting such information, such as participatory poverty and demographic assessment studies involving the widows’ groups themselves.


ARTICLE 10

a) Governments shall address the situation of widows in their work programmes to achieve the Millennium Development Goals
b) Governments shall bear in mind the special situation of widows when identifying measures to implement the CEDAW, the BPFA, the Declaration Eliminating Violence against Women, the Convention against Torture, SCR Resolution 1325 and all other human rights conventions and charters.



The hidden lives of Child Widows

Article published by Margaret Owen OBE

http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/hidden-lives-of-child-widows

Women for Human Rights, along with Pro Public filed for the rights of Vaikalya (child widows) on 28th December, 2009. Vaikalyas are considered worst than widows and have many codes of conducts.

After 3 years of continuous advocacy and lobby from WHR, on 16th May, 2012, the Supreme Court announced that such traditions are ill practices. The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare must establish a working committee to see this practice is eliminated.

The Ministry will also collect data on the number of Vaikalyas and their conditions. It will also raise awareness on this issue and see that various programs are established to empower child widows ( Vaikalyas).

This is a great victory against the tradition of Vaikalyas!

Lily Thapa
Founder
Women for Human Rights, single women group (WHR)
Organisation in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
Baluwatar, Kathmandu, Nepal

*********************

 On the Run ...
with Margaret Owen, OBE ...

The International Criminal Law Bureau Blog has interviewed Margaret Owen OBE as the first feature in our 'On the Run' interview series.

Margaret has recently been made a Door Tenant of the
9 Bedford Walk Chambers
(specialising in ICC and UN tribunals trying war crimes).

Please click on the link below for the interview:

http://www.internationallawbureau.com/blog/?s=margaret+owen
You can also read the article here:
http://www.internationallawbureau.com/blog/?p=4850
Article published by Kathryn Hovington on May 9th, 2012


*********************

IRAQ - MANY WIDOWS - POLYGAMY ISSUES CONSIDERED - DIVISIVE
26 January 2011

By Roula Ayoubi BBC News, Baghdad

Years of conflict in Iraq have left the country with more than one million war widows and a shortage of young unmarried men - pressures that may be bringing about the return of polygamy.

Politicians have suggested financial incentives for men who marry widows

Hanan lost eight members of her family in the war, including her husband, and was left to bring up three children alone.

The experience has not broken her. She continues to work as a hairdresser in her noisy and lively home on Haifa Street in Baghdad .

But she still needs a "man-shelter", she says - and this is why she ended up married to a married man.

"When he proposed to me, he said he was divorced," she says.
"But after we got married, he got back together with his first wife, because he has children with her."

He now stays with Hanan once a week. But while she has only reluctantly accepted a situation where she shares a husband with another woman, some in Iraq are actively promoting the idea of polygamy.

Dignity
It's a practice that became less common in the 20th Century, but politicians put forward a proposal last year to offer married men financial incentives to take on a second wife.

Iraqi widows
•There are estimated to be about one million widows in Iraq
•One in 10 households in Iraq are headed by women, rising to 18% in some districts
•In cities across Iraq , women are harassed for engaging in their professions, wearing clothes deemed inappropriate, or simply stepping out of their homes
Under current Iraqi law, polygamy is illegal unless authorised by a judge - though it is part of the country's Islamic tradition and has been backed in recent years by some religious groups.

In Iraq 's largest province, Anbar, a charity called Angel of Mercy has been helping widows remarry for the last four years. Dozens of marriages have been completed, with the widows often marrying their husband's relatives.

Women's leaders are divided on the subject.

Nada Ibrahim, a member of parliament, supports the idea of polygamous marriage in principle - as long as a husband treats his wives "with justice".

However, she also believes that the government should provide more support for widows, to make it easier for them to survive without men.

"Widows are often young and don't have jobs, health insurance or social security. We shouldn't encourage them only to get married," she says.

Hana Edwar of the Amal charity also believes that the government should help widows financially to enable them to decide their own fate. She's firmly opposed to polygamous marriage.
"It's about women's dignity," she says. "Women need to be educated about their rights."
Women in illegal second marriages are often "in an inferior situation where they are unprotected and prone to abuse by men", she adds.
But one of Hanan's reasons for remarrying was that she felt unprotected as a widow.

Pregnancy
"I used to feel vulnerable with no support, afraid that anyone could attack me and anyone could harass me," she says.
"In the beginning I used to feel angry - I used to cry”
"A man's protection is like a shelter. And this is what a woman needs from a man."
Unlike some widows, she is capable of supporting her children alone.
Her second husband, Mostafa, a friend of her first husband's, offered her much-needed support after his death in 2005. They married a year ago.
She says she had to accept his reconciliation with his first wife, because she could not come between him and his children.
Another factor influencing her feelings was her own pregnancy with Mostafa's child.
"The little foetus in my womb ended our problems and made us accept things and stop arguing," she says.
"In the beginning I used to feel angry. I used to cry. But I learned how to cope. What do I gain from my situation if I keep feeling angry and sad? I need to accept the reality." 

WUNRN
http://www.wunrn.com
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12266986


Any further information, please contact: Margaret Owen, (Director, WPD) email: director.wpd@gmail.com