Recognising the rights of conflict widows

Insights from Manipur, India

Authored by: Upasana Mahanta

Routledge Handbook of Human Rights in Asia

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138855700
eBook ISBN: 9781315720180
Adobe ISBN:


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The state of Manipur, nestled in the northeastern region of India, has been facing a situation of insurgency-led conflict since the mid-1960s. Although ample attention has been paid to ‘harder’ security concerns arising in the state, little has been talked about the gendered nature of the violence. One of the serious fallouts of the ongoing conflict in Manipur is an alarming rise in instances of widowhood. Conflict widows are battling not only questions of access to livelihood opportunities in the context of severe restrictions on mobility and fear of physical safety, but also dealing with shifting gender roles within the larger household or family that raises concerns of rights to inheritance, land, and property. Also, it is observed that assistance programmes to survivors of armed conflict often fall short of meeting widows’ need for economic, social, or psychological support. The absence of precise or reliable estimates as to the number of persons who have been widowed as a consequence of the long-standing armed conflict in Manipur further makes them invisible in the state assistance schemes. Hence, it is important to expand on the conventional understandings of the concept of human rights, especially in terms of the nature of marginalisation faced by vulnerable communities in conflict contexts. This chapter, in this context, seeks to highlight the marginalisation of conflict widows and to make a case for a systematic evidence-based approach to state assistance to widows in Manipur.

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