Waiting in Limbo: Kashmir’s Half-widows
The violence of Kashmir’s armed conflict has given rise to a category of women known as “half-widows.” These are women whose husbands have ‘disappeared’ during the decades-long conflict or who have gone missing and are often presumed dead. Half-widows live their lives in limbo, oscillating between grief and hope. Even though there are no official records, it is estimated by the Association of Disappeared Persons (APDP) there are nearly 2500 half-widows in the Kashmir region.
Half-widows live economically insecure and socially ostracized lives. The loss of their husband often times means losing the main breadwinner of the household, which leads to a life with an uncertain future. In-laws and relatives often refuse to support them, and they bear the responsibility of raising children alone. They are often illiterate, living in remote villages, and have little knowledge of their rights and entitlements. Remarriage is extremely rare as it is seen as socially and religiously taboo.
Since there is no proof of the husband’s death, half-widows are often deprived of any monetary compensation or benefits. Many times the share in the husband’s property is denied to the half-widow and her children. Government compensation for her family is also obscure and complex. Most cases that are brought to the authorities are dismissed on the grounds that the missing husband became a militant and/or crossed the border into Pakistan. The half-widows cannot claim pensions and widow relief until after a period of seven years. All of this combined makes the struggle for justice painful, endless and hopeless.