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Victimization of Elderly Women, “Witches,” and Widows

  • Michael Platzer
Chapter

Abstract

Violence against women is one of the most widespread unpunished crimes, affecting women of all backgrounds, cultures, and countries. In many societies, elderly widows are perhaps the most vulnerable to physical and mental abuse. The victimization of women living alone is committed not only by strangers seeking to steal her assets but also by her own family desirous of inheriting her property. In many countries, a woman’s status is linked to her husband, so that when he dies or divorces her, she becomes vulnerable and is ostracized. With no rights to ownership of her husband’s property, a widow may be thrown out of her own home and become destitute. In some societies, elderly women are accused of witchcraft or, in developed countries, deemed “incompetent” simply to acquire her property. Across Africa and Asia, widows are coerced into harmful, degrading traditional practices—ranging from shaving of the head, imprisonment in the home, and forced marriage to a relative to the burning of widows. But even in developed societies, widows can be denied proper medical care, have difficulties accessing credit, be liable for the debts of a deceased spouse, or be driven to suicide by the hostility of in-laws or the greed of their own children. The United Nations has set aside June 23 each year to commemorate International Widow’s Day in order to make visible the dilemmas of widows, promote national protection programs, combat religious and cultural practices, and also end impunity for widow abuse.

Learning Outcomes:
  1. 1.

    Over the age of 60, there are more widows than widowers (in least-developed countries, 59% of women over 60 are unmarried; only 19% of men are unmarried).

     
  2. 2.

    Violence against women, although punishable in all countries, is the least-prosecuted crime in all jurisdictions.

     
  3. 3.

    Vast numbers of women are widowed due to armed conflict (50% of women in the Congo are widows; there are 3 million widows in Iraq); in developed countries, the widows of war veterans receive insufficient support.

     
  4. 4.

    Widows are often responsible for the childcare of their grandchildren and must often withdraw them from schools because they have no money for fees. They may have to force them to beg on the streets or prostitute themselves. As child support ceases with death of a spouse or ex-spouse, innocent children are the secondary victims.

     
  5. 5.

    The murder of accused “witches” number in thousands each year; millions are banished from communities or beaten by neighbors (refugee camps for “witches” and their children exist in West Africa).The murder of accused “witches” number in thousands each year; millions are banished from communities or beaten by neighbors (refugee camps for “witches” and their children exist in West Africa).The murder of accused “witches” number in thousands each year; millions are banished from communities or beaten by neighbors (refugee camps for “witches” and their children exist in West Africa).The murder of accused “witches” number in thousands each year; millions are banished from communities or beaten by neighbors (refugee camps for “witches” and their children exist in West Africa).The murder of accused “witches” number in thousands each year; millions are banished from communities or beaten by neighbors (refugee camps for “witches” and their children exist in West Africa).The murder of accused “witches” number in thousands each year; millions are banished from communities or beaten by neighbors (refugee camps for “witches” and their children exist in West Africa).The murder of accused “witches” number in thousands each year; millions are banished from communities or beaten by neighbors (refugee camps for “witches” and their children exist in West Africa).The murder of accused “witches” number in thousands each year; millions are banished from communities or beaten by neighbors (refugee camps for “witches” and their children exist in West Africa).The murder of accused “witches” number in thousands each year; millions are banished from communities or beaten by neighbors (refugee camps for “witches” and their children exist in West Africa).The murder of accused “witches” number in thousands each year; millions are banished from communities or beaten by neighbors (refugee camps for “witches” and their children exist in West Africa).

     

Keywords

Victimization Violence against women HIV/AIDS Sati Witches 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Platzer
    • 1
  1. 1.FEMICIDE Project, Academic Council on the United NationsWaterlooCanada

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