Justice, independent identity remain elusive for single women in Himachal Pradesh
There are nearly 3 lakh single women in HP. Though law provides them maintenance and inheritance rights, but by the time court cases end, the future of their children is already compromised with.punjab Updated: Jun 26, 2017 20:01 IST
Five years after her marriage in 2002, 31-year-old Jaiwanti Devi was abandoned by her husband. Today, she is fighting a long-drawn battle to get inheritance rights for her two children—her daughter Sonakshi, 13, and her son Sunil,11.
According to the 2011 Census, there are 3,04,980 single women in Himachal Pradesh. These include widows, divorcees and women abandoned by their husbands.
In 2005, many of them joined hands to form the Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan (organisation for empowering single women), a platform that collectively fights for the rights of the single women in Himachal Pradesh. The platform was started with 105 members and has nearly 15,000 members today.
“My in-laws and husband have denied me shelter and share in property. For the past one decade I have been living with my parents,” says Jaiwanti Devi, a resident of Chamtha village in Nerwa sub-divsion of Shimla district.
She says that three years ago, a local court had ordered her husband to at least construct a one-room set for her and her children. “He is not abiding by the court’s order,” says Jaiwanti Devi, who is jobless.
There are many other women like Jaiwanti Devi who are braving similar challenges everyday.
“I was married in 1995. My husband had an extra-marital affair with another woman. After facing cruelty for eight years, we separated in 2003,” says Brijb Bala, 41, a resident of Ghumarwein in Bilaspur district.
Bala is fighting a court case to get the maintenance amount and her share in property. “My elder daughter is 21 and is pursuing a management course. The younger one is in her graduation,” she says, and adds “I am struggling to make both ends meet.”
Braving societal odds, Bala also decided to continue her education and is today pursing a post graduate course in political science from Himachal University. “I have suffered a lot and I finally decided to continue my studies after my husband abandoned me. I was suffering cruelty at his hands and hence we separated eight years after our marriage,” she says.
Single women in Himachal Pradesh are demanding that the government should set up separate autonomous nayaya panchayats so that their cases can be taken up on priority and they get speedy justice. They argue that even though the law provides them maintenance and inheritance rights, the court cases are often long-drawn and by the time the verdict is pronounced, their children’s future is already compromised with.
Nirmal Chandel, head of Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan, says, “Getting justice for women, particularly the single women, is a herculean task. We are demanding that the government should set up separate nayaya panchayats for us.” Chandel is 43 and was widowed when she was 23 years of age.
Besides this, single women also urge the state government to frame welfare policies for them on lines with those adopted in Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand. It is learnt that these states have provisions whereby single women are issued separate ration cards.
Furthermore, the single women demand that the state government should increase the minimum income limit from ₹35,000 per annum to ₹60,000 so that they are eligible for government jobs. At present people who have an annual income less than ₹35,000 are eligible for various welfare schemes.
With the existing income limit, very few single women are able to avail benefits of government schemes, they say.