Remarriages by widows continue to be largely frowned upon in India, despite the supposed urbanization and modernization sweeping the nation. Family members, from in-laws to long-lost cousins, still have a huge say in the life and choices that women make.
Social Pressures That Work Against Widow Remarriage in India
A Hindu widow is expected to live a life of prayers and noble endeavors by the society she lives in. The expectation does not extend to Hindu widowers. Interestingly, a man who loses his wife is usually pressurized to marry for the sake of ‘companionship’ and so on.
The obvious gender discrimination begins from within the society and percolates to the people who are a part of it. Those who question it are disapproved of or alienated tacitly and those who abide by these social norms are labeled as respectable.
Times are changing and so have many such prejudices. However, in a majority of Hindu families, the concept of widow remarriage is still not fully acceptable. While changing the outlook of family members about remarriage may be an insurmountable task, the Hindu laws support the same to emancipate such aggrieved women and help them lead a fulfilled life.
The Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act
The Act establishes that a marriage between Hindus can not be questioned on the ground that the woman had been previously married. Simply put, this Act validates and gives legal sanction to widow remarriage in India. It must be noted that when a Hindu widow remarries outside the religion, the provisions of the Act cease to be applicable.
Other important stipulations of the Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act, 1856 are:
Status of guardianship of children
If the guardianship of a minor child is not expressly constituted in the will of the deceased, his parents, paternal grandfather, maternal grandmother and any close male relative may appeal to the court for obtaining guardianship on the widow’s remarriage.
Rights of the widow in deceased husband’s property
Upon remarriage, the widow’s rights over the deceased husband’s property, which is received through inheritance or as maintenance, are generally transferred to the next heirs of the deceased.
Status of remarriage of a minor widow
In this case, a valid marriage can only take place when the father of the minor widow gives his consent. If the widow is fatherless, the consent of her paternal grandfather, mother, elder brother or male relative (in the specific order) is required.