Village in Maharashtra's Kolhapur rescues widows, bans regressive customs
Herwad village in Shirol taluka in Maharashtra's Kolhapur district bans customs like removing a widow's mangalsutra, toe ring, wiping her sindoor (vermilion) and breaking her bangles as part of age-old rituals
Customs associated with widowhood must be banned completely to ensure that such women have the right to live with dignity, a group campaigning against regressive traditions has urged the Mahasrashtra government.
The demand comes close to the heels of a path-breaking resolution passed by the Herwad village in Shirol taluka in Maharashtra's Kolhapur district to ban customs like removing a widow's mangalsutra, toe ring, wiping her sindoor (vermilion) and breaking her bangles as part of age-old rituals. The customs also forbade widows from attending social and religious gatherings.
The village passed the resolution on May 4 following which the Maharashtra government released a circular asking all gram panchayats in the state to follow the 'Herwad model'. The village resolution is being viewed as a positive step forward towards enacting a law to safeguard widows' dignity.
Pramod Zinjade, who heads a social welfare organisation named after reformer Mahatma Phule in Solapur district and is the inspiration behind the Herwad model, told news agency PTI that seven more villages have adopted similar resolutions.
Asserting that more than resolutions, legal sanction is needed to end such regressive practices, Pramod said he had met state Legislative Council Deputy Chairperson Neelam Gorhe who assured him that the matter would be taken up in both Houses of the state legislature during the monsoon session.
Pramod said there should be punitive action taken against those who ostracize widows. He suggested a punishment of jail term of up to a year and penalty of upto one lakh rupeed for those who disfigure the deceased man's grieving wife, the relatives who allow the practice and and even villagers who take part in the act.
He further suggested setting up of a monitoring team comprised of 50 per cent women as members and half of them widows, to ensure that the law -- when enacted in the time to come -- is not violated. He said members of this proposed must be trained to videoshoot the funeral proceedings and hand it over to the local village official, police or the women and child protection officer along with witness statements.
According to Herwad sarpanch Surgonda Patil, even as the resolution was passed, an awareness programme informing people about why the regressive practices related to widows must be done away with was being held since the last five months.
Patil said the number of deaths due to the first and second waves of Coronavirus made them realise the dire social situation of widows.
Women have the right to live with dignity, said Zinjade who on March 29 this year submitted an affidavit on a stamp paper to the local tehsildar that freed his wife from being subjected to the regressive practices faced by a widow upon his death.
With inputs from PTI
Representative Image used