A War Begins After its End : A Case Study of Military Personnel Widows

The proliferation of armed conflicts and the high levels of military and civilian casualties since independence (1947) have resulted in a large number of army personnel widows. Widowhood often changes the social and economic roles of women however its impact differs according to culture and religion. Widowhood can affect the physical safety, identity and mobility of women and children. It can also affect their access to basic goods and services necessary for survival, and their rights to inheritance, land and property. In patriarchal societies women can be left entirely without social status when they lose their husbands. These women become socially and psychologically a vulnerable group. These widows face a number of mental health problems. They have suffered bereavement as a result of the violent deaths of their husbands and these traumatic memories hound them for many years.


Rationale of the Project

The nation is celebrating golden jubilee of 1965 war victory and the media has brought forward the challenges and adversities of the families. From some vague details which appear as news items in the local newspapers, it seems that the actual life pattern and challenges of the army personnel widows remain hidden and unanswered by the system. There are gaps in the implementation of various welfare schemes. By adopting a holistic approach to cater to the needs of the families and widows could prove to be a major strategy to motivate the soldiers who can be assured that their families will be taken care of after them. To achieve that, we have to stop viewing widows as passive recipients of the welfare schemes, as now the challenge is to bring them to the mainstream and make them active contributors. There has been very little empirical research done on the experiences of these women who continue to fight even when the war is over. Thus it is pertinent to understand and record their experiences related to economic, social, psychological and legal struggles after their husband’s death. Realising the sensitivity of the issue and to bring these widows to the mainstream, Women's Studies Centre of the Punjab University, Patiala has initiated a project " A War Begins After the End A Case Study of Military Personnel Widows"


The study aims to interview sixty widows residing in Punjab to explore their economic, social, legal and psychological victimization, exploitation and neglect. The present study will explore the challenges the women have faced related to pension issues: how much time it took for the disbursement of the pension. The decision making related to the financial matters in the family. To investigate if she was just the signing authority or she had some freedom/power to use the money for her own use (like education, health and other basic necessities). Number of family members dependent upon that pension. The second vital objective of the study is related to social discrimination/harassment of the widows at the micro and macro level. If at any time she had to go through the issues related to remarriage or living independently. Her legal battles related to inheritance of family property as well.


Questionnaire method will be used to assess the economic, social, legal and psychological challenges they have faced with respect to their age, education, family type, socio-economic status and the years of widowhood. Focus group discussion will be carried for their need assessment so as to empower them and help them to live with dignity. With the consent of the respondents, a few case studies will be recorded and video-graphed. Suitable statistical techniques will be used for the interpretation of the data.

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