Abused and destitute: Wars fuel rise in global number of widows

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Attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on the Myanmar security forces in Rakhine state triggered a response by the army and Buddhist vigilantes so brutal a senior UN official denounced it as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. (REUTERS)
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Rohingya Muslim women, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, stretch their arms out to collect sanitary products distributed by aid agencies near Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. (AP)
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Displaced Sunni women fleeing the violence in Ramadi, carry bags as they walk on the outskirts of Baghdad, May 24, 2015. (REUTERS)
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This combo photo comprises of portraits of some of the Rohingya Muslim women taken during an interview with The Associated Press in November 2017 in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. (AP)
Updated 23 June 2018
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Abused and destitute: Wars fuel rise in global number of widows

  • One in seven widows globally — 38 million — lives in extreme poverty
  • Deaths through conflict and disease contributed to a 9 percent increase in the number of widows between 2010 and 2015

LONDON: Millions of widows worldwide suffer crushing poverty and persecution, their numbers swelled by a proliferation of conflicts from Syria to Myanmar.
International Widows’ Day on June 23 aims to raise awareness of the often hidden injustices they face.
Many are robbed of their inheritance, while others are enslaved by in-laws, accused of witchcraft or forced into abusive sexual rituals. Here are some facts:
- Experts estimated there were 258.5 million widows globally in 2015, but say the number is likely to have risen.
- Deaths through conflict and disease contributed to a 9 percent increase in the number of widows between 2010 and 2015.
- The biggest jump has been in the Middle East and North Africa, where the estimated number of widows rose 24 percent between 2010 and 2015, partly due to the Syrian war and other conflicts.
- One in seven widows globally — 38 million — lives in extreme poverty.
- One in 10 women of marital age is widowed. The proportion is about one in five in Afghanistan and Ukraine.
- A third of widows worldwide live in India or China. India, with an estimated 46 million widows in 2015, has overtaken China (44.6 million) to become the country with the largest number of widows.
- Widow “cleansing” rituals in some sub-Saharan countries may require a widow to drink the water used to wash her dead husband’s body or to have sex with an in-law, village “cleanser” or stranger.
- Campaigners for widows’ rights say such rituals, which are intended to rid a widow of her husband’s spirit, spread disease and are a violation of dignity.
- Widows are regularly accused of killing their husbands either deliberately or through neglect — including by transmitting HIV/AIDS — in India, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and sub-Saharan Africa.
- Property seizures and evictions by the late husband’s family are widespread in many places including Angola, Bangladesh, Botswana, India, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
- A significant number of girls are widowed in childhood — a reflection of the prevalence of child marriage in developing countries and the custom of marrying off young girls to much older men.


US not ‘afraid to tackle’ Iran regime at ‘highest level’: Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP)
Updated 2 min 36 sec ago
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US not ‘afraid to tackle’ Iran regime at ‘highest level’: Pompeo

WASHINGTON: The United States is not “afraid to tackle” Iranian officials with sanctions at the “highest level” of its government, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.
Following the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord that stunned even Washington’s closest European allies, Pompeo on May 21 unveiled a “new strategy” intended to force Iran to yield to a dozen stringent demands.
“We weren’t afraid to tackle the regime at its highest level,” Pompeo said in a speech in California, referring to sanctions leveled in January against Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary.
Pompeo also confirmed that Washington wants all countries to reduce their imports of Iranian oil “as close to zero as possible” by November 4, part of US efforts to increase economic pressure on Tehran.
“There’s more to come,” Pompeo said.
US President Donald Trump on May 8 decided to restore all the sanctions that had been lifted as part of a multi-national agreement, signed on to by former president Barack Obama’s administration, in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
“Regime leaders — especially those at the top of the IRGC and the Quds Force like Qasem Soleimani — must be made to feel painful consequences of their bad decision making,” the top US diplomat said, referring to Iran’s special forces and Revolutionary Guards.