In the state of Himachal Pradesh there are 230,000 widows, approximately 8,500 divorced women, and an estimated 100,000 women who are abandoned or who have cases in courts pending divorce. The majority of single women reside in rural areas.
Single women have few economic opportunities, lack adequate child care for work, have great difficulty accessing property rights, and often fight for a decade or more to receive a divorce and maintenance payments. With costs of education and health care spiraling, as well as increased marriage expenses for sons and daughters, most single women face tremendous financial stress.
Because women are not primarily seen as independent citizens of the state, single women have been excluded from access to numerous government programs and services.
As women who deviate from the norm of the ideal married woman, single women are susceptible to being viewed as “bad” women – sexually loose and immoral, inauspicious, and even dangerous. Single women who courageously flee violent marriages are faced with the accusation that they are the cause of the failure of the marriage. In addition, single women have few spaces to talk about their numerous sorrows and difficulties, and they have few places in which their strength and courage is recognized and reflected back to them.
Neglected and abused older widows, as well as younger single women (widowed, divorced, abandoned, never married, or fleeing domestic violence) are often marginalized in both the marital home and their home of birth. These single women literally have no place of their own from which to craft lives of dignity and respect.