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

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.


Philippine, Kuwaiti officials meet amid labor ban

Updated 21 January 2020

Philippine, Kuwaiti officials meet amid labor ban

  • The meeting took place days after the Philippines announced a complete ban on the deployment of new workers to Kuwait

MANILA: Philippine and Kuwaiti officials on Sunday held talks in the wake of a ban imposed by Manila on Filipinos working in the Gulf state.

Abdullah D. Mama-o, President Rodrigo Duterte’s adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) concerns, met with Kuwait Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah to discuss bilateral ties and how to overcome the crisis.

The meeting took place days after the Philippines announced a complete ban on the deployment of new workers to Kuwait following the killing of Jeanelyn Villavende.

A forensic examination conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation on Villavende’s body showed “clear indications of sexual abuse,” and signs of physical abuse dating back weeks before her death.

Villavende’s employer and his wife, allegedly the perpetrators in the Filipino maid’s killing, are now behind bars in Kuwait.

During the meeting between Mama-o and Al-Jarallah, “the Filipino official praised Kuwait for the legal procedures the country has taken to address the issue,” Kuwait’s official news agency KUNA reported.

Officials from both countries are scheduled to hold further meetings next month to resolve the crisis.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait rescued another Filipino maid, Delia Solomon, who accused her employers of mistreatment.

“While a distressed OFW’s plea was going viral (on) social media yesterday, our Kuwait PE (Philippine Embassy) worked quietly on extracting her,” Foreign Undersecretary Brigido Dulay tweeted on Sunday.

“We are happy to report that she is now sheltered in our embassy and we’re working on reuniting her with her loved ones next week.”

Prior to his talks with Al-Jarallah, Mama-o on Saturday met with more than 100 members of the Filipino community in Kuwait.

Issues discussed included the Philippine government’s contingency plan amid tensions in the Middle East, and the decision of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s governing board to impose a ban on the deployment of newly hired OFWs bound for Kuwait.

Mama-o, who was accompanied by other Philippine officials, said the Duterte administration will exert all efforts to safeguard the welfare of all Filipinos in the Middle East.

During the Filipino community meeting, Chargé d’Affaires Noordin Pendosina Lomondot assured Filipinos in Kuwait that the embassy is preparing for any scenario in case the situation in the region does not improve.

The official gave Filipino community leaders details of the embassy’s contingency plan, such as possible evacuation routes and the names of area coordinators.