South Asia

Nepal hosts international conference on widows

Nepal widow
Image caption Widows in Nepal lose their status within the home and society

An international conference on the rights of widows is being hosted in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

The organisers hope it will highlight the plight of thousands of women who face discrimination and economic hardship after becoming widows.

The two-day conference on the challenges they face is being attended by representatives from Asia, Europe and the United States.

The aim is to create a worldwide effort to help widows fight injustice.

Discrimination against widows is particularly severe in Nepal where many women lost their husbands during the country's 10-year civil conflict in which an estimated 16,000 people were killed.

Widows are often blamed for these deaths, forced to wear white and are banned from participating in family rituals and ceremonies.

Seen as bad omens, they are often hidden away from public life and forced to work as unpaid domestic servants.

In his opening address to the conference, the Nepalese minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare said the government would gather accurate figures on the number of widows in the country's next census, due to take place in 2011.

He also pledged to abolish laws that discriminate against single women which he said would help raise their status in society.

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