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Widows at a shelter

Widows at a shelter in Varanasi in eastern India. Image: Sudeshna Sarkar/IPS

VARANASI, India , Aug 27 2013 (IPS) – Namuna Gautam was among millions of Indian women who celebrated Rakshabandhan this year, but one thing set her apart. It was the first time the 80-year-old took part in the festival, in which sisters pray for the long life, health and happiness of their brothers.

For decades, Gautam was part of a dark tradition that shunned widowed women as unlucky, and threw them out of home to fend for themselves.

“I was married when I was 10. During the wedding, I had to keep the veil over my face or people would have thought me immodest. My husband died the same year and my in-laws said I had brought them bad luck.” Like many others, she was married as a child, but due to join her husband only later . . .

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