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A senior official at the United Nations has called upon the international community to put an end to the discrimination of widows.

The acting head of the United Nations entity mandated to promote gender equality said yesterday that an estimated 115 million widows around the live below the poverty line and 81 million are subject to physical abuse.

“On this International Widows’ Day, UN Women calls for action to end discrimination against widows so they can live in dignity and enjoy equal rights, opportunities and full participation in society,” the UN entity’s acting head and deputy executive director Lakshmi Puri said in her message for the Day.

“Absent in statistics, unnoticed by researchers, neglected by national and local authorities and mostly overlooked by civil society organizations – the situation of widows is, in effect, invisible,” the UN General Assembly said in 2011 when it declared the first International Widow’s Day to be marked annually on 23 June.

India Widows

Women whose husbands died are at a greater risk of slipping into poverty, their economic resources often exacerbated by little or no access to credit or private property, and by illiteracy or lack of education.

Millions of the world’s widows endure extreme poverty, ostracism, violence, homelessness, ill health and discrimination in law and custom. Yet widows contribute to society as mothers, caregivers and heads of households, added Ms. Puri, and their rights should be upheld by national laws and policies.