The International Women’s Day 2010 brought good news to the two neighbors—India and Nepal. Whereas in India, the Upper House of Parliament voted for a bill that would reserve a third of all legislative seats for women, the Supreme Court in Nepal issued a directive to the government to remove the age threshold for “widow allowance.”
Both these achievements come after years of struggle, and are “historic.” The Indian bill will now pass to the lower house of parliament, where a third of seats will also be reserved for women. It certainly is a cause of celebration (of course we should not let the recent oppositions flag the spirits!)
In Nepal, as per the previous regulation, only widows over 60 years of age were eligible for the monthly allowance of Rs 500. The government has been distributing widow allowances as part of its Social Security Program since 2007 but some of its provisions, such as age threshold, soon became controversial. The imposition of age old threshold on widow allowance curtailed many deserving widows’ access to relief package since the irony was that, anybody (men and women) over 60 years of age are eligible for the old age allowance. So, the government was doing nothing special for the widows, or single women, what they prefer calling themselves.
The new regulation is a welcome change for all the single women, especially the ones who are in most immediate need of support. The directive, does not, however, mean that the government has to provide allowance to all the widows.
The Apex Court directive has asked the government to provide allowances considering the “level of income of each individual widow and the state’s resources.” This means that the state is not obliged to provide allowances to all the widows. So, there is a major challenge ahead of the government now, the challenge to identify income sources of each widow, and distribute the allowance accordingly. This means that the government will have to come up with new regulations t\that will set the criteria for identifying the income level of widows on the number of dependents, possession of land, job at hand, and the likes.
So, although the new directive has made things better for the single women here, the government needs to do more of its share, and come up with the right way to set criteria for classification. One thing that they need to keep in mind is that the widows should get what they deserve.