PUBLISHER: DANIELS G.O
INTERNATIONAL WIDOWS DAY
International Day for Widows is a UN ratified day of action to address the extreme Poverty and Injustice faced by widows and their dependents in many countries. It is marked to draw attention to voices and experiences of Widows and galvanize the unique support that they need.
It’s a global annual celebration every 23rd June, established by the LOOMBA FOUNDATION based in UK, but of Indian origin, to create awareness on pertinent issues affecting Widows.
Statistical data has it that Widows in the world are estimated to be approximately 350 million. 80 percent being widowed women. While globally, in about one out of every 15 people in the marital ages are Widowed and nearly 1 in every ten lives in extreme Poverty. Unfortunately, the number keeps increasing everyday because of certain factors like, Conflict situations and COVID-19 PANDEMIC.
In Nigeria, the term widowhood relates only to married couples.
The loss of a partner is very devastating and frustrating. For many women around the world, the loss is magnified by a long term struggle for basic needs, their human rights and dignity are grossly eroded. They maybe denied inheritance rights to the peice of land that they relied on for livelihood or forced to unwarranted marriages or traumatizing widowhood rites/ rituals. They are stigmatized for life, shunned and shamed. Most of these abuses go unnoticed, even normalized. Thus, the UN theme for this year ” INVISIBLE WOMEN, INVISIBLE PROBLEMS.”
Widows go through a lot unnoticed. They remain alone and the problems become invisible to the whole Society. This year’s theme therefore, urges us to identify these women and make their problems visible to the society. The purpose of this day is the acknowledgement of the UN that Widows are invisible to government and policy makers. Policies focus on common citizens, labourers, jobless youths, and other suffering segments of the Society. Nothing is specifically discussed about Widows in policy making Meetings. Such an ignoring attitude means that issues of more than 350m people remain unaddressed. Widows day stresses upon highlighting the issues of this ignored community to make the world more sustainable.
Harmful traditional cultural practices include, Shaving of hairs, sitting on the floor or mat, wearing of white/black clothes, being refrained from batting for a number of days, seclusion and being made to swear with husband corpse, forced into marrying brother of the late husband among others.
In addition to emotional stress and sorrows of widowhood, most people are unprepared to deal with the daunting challenges following the death of a spouse.
Nigeria is a patriarchal Society, thus, women are regarded as less human beings. Against this backdrop, women are discriminated against, degraded and dehumanized despite the providions of our local statutes such as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and various other International Human Rights instruments which Nigeria ratified and domesticated.
Harmful traditional practices are repugnant to Natural Justice equity and good conscience, thus, should be eradicated. Widows are the fulcrum of this debased treatment. Widows are subjected to agonizing, painful and dehumanizing treatments during their mourning rites and thereafter. This impacts negatively on their social, psychological and physical wellbeing. Surprisingly, some of these obnoxious cultural practices are tacitly accepted and implemented by fellow women, especially from the inlaws.
In most States of the Federation in Nigeria, harmful to practices have endured that men retain material, soci Women are regarded as charttel( property) and this dorminate our Customary laws on marriage, inheritance, succession and property ownership.
. This consequently is manifested in the discriminatory and obnoxious cultural, traditional practices meted against widows in Nigeria. The agony and sadness of a woman who lost her husband abound. This is further compounded by the private and public maltreatment that culminate in the gross violations of her guaranteed fundamental rights of life, liberty, dignity of the human person, acquisition of private property, freedom of discrimination and freedom of thought, speech, conscience and religion
Customs and traditions have tremendously abused widows physically,. economically, sexually, and otherwise. Predicated on these, women are also depersonalized and regarded as objects of rights, rather than subjects of rights. They are made to suffer double jeopardy of losing their husbands.
These harmful widowhood and mourning rites should of necessity be eradicated from the Society in general.
Inheritance is one of the highest problems encountered by most widows.
In Nigeria today, the disposition of property or succession to a deceased persons property is by ” WILL’ ( RESTATE) or by Customary and traditional rites ( intestate) Hence, the disposition of deceased’s property is either by writing a valid will dispenses of all cultural attachments(;Arinze Umobi v Anyou.
The type of marriage celebrated also determines what acrues to a woman at the demise of her husband. Under the Nigerian Legal system, 3 types of marriages are celebrated namely, marriage under the Act, Customary law marriage and Islamic law or Moslem marriage. In the absence of any ” WILL, ” a widow inherits little or nothing, whereas, widower inherits all. This is discriminatory and should be amended accordingly.
The existing Laws.
* VAPP ACT 2015
* Administration of estate law
. * Criminal law
CEDAW.. Convention on the Elimination all forms of Discrimination Against Women should be effectively implemented and enforced to protect the rights of Widows.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court judgement on the case of Ukeje v Ukeje is the position for now and fovoursble to women inheritance.
1. Dismantling of age long traditions. Should be modified by educating the traditional rulers, elders and educating them on consequences of these practices and the adverse effects on children who are the growing Society. Committees should be formed in the localities to review and eradicate the obnoxious cultural practices and replace them with modern trend of laws. Patriarchy should be eliminated so as to achieve gender equality
2. Public enlightenment campaign. The general public should be enlightened on the harmful effects of the practices. Churches, Mosques etc should be of help.
3. Formation of state widows welfare Commission should be encouraged to handle the issues of Widows.
4. Women empowerment. Widows should attain qualitative education to recognize their rights and enforcement. Acquire Professional courses to take up lucrative jobs.
5. WRITING OF WILL. Spouses should endeavor to make valid will to avoid obnoxious cultural practices taking the center stage.
6. INCLUSIVENESS;. Widows should be included in the policy making process.
7. ENFORCEMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS LAW.
8. INCLUSION OF WOMEN IN FAMILY INHERITANCE.
CONCLUSION. Women have under gone untold hardships and maltreatment in the name of culture and traditions. These have persisted despite the incidences of the Nigerian basic and organic law and also International and regional Legal instruments against these harm obnoxious cultural practices.
2. Harmful traditional cultural practices are repugnant to Natural Justice equity and good conscience should be eradicated.