UNITED STATES, NORTH AMERICA
Heather Ibraham-Leathers

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There is no international convention, law, treaty or protocol that specifically establishes, defines, protects, or advances the rights of Widows. It is also imperative to note that despite national or domestic laws that may protect inheritance, land ownership, and criminalization of perpetrators of violence or harmful stigmatization rites imposed on widows, the reality is that cultural, customary, religious, or traditional practices prevail, thereby preventing widows from actually inheriting their rightful estate. As a result, widows are rendered bereft of land, home, and property and nationality, rendering them vulnerable to physical, economic, social, and emotional violence.  Widows may often be forced to disinherit their own children, and may be subject to being “inherited” themselves in a levirate relationship. Although widows rights are women’s rights, because of the peculiarities they face, some conventions are more relevant than others in protecting widows whereas others are more generic. Therefore, it is critical that a Global Treaty on Violence against Women and Girls, with its own monitoring body, and working in conjunction with CEDAW and other established international and regional mechanisms MUST specifically and deliberately include violence against widows. Global recognition that violence against widows is a gross, endemic and systematic violation of human rights. It is imperative that countries adopt effective and enforceable legislation that supports incorporation of strong domestic policies and education programs addressing the physical, social, emotional, and most importantly ECONOMIC violence against widows.

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