Vulnerable of the vulnerables: the situation of divorced, abandoned and widowed women in a rural area of Bangladesh Working Paper No. 11


Marriage is the only secure institution the society grants a Bangladeshi women. In a society where male dominated institutions tend to shape the life and role of a woman, the situation of a woman after marriage disruption in most cases may become insecured. Although the possibility of such an insecurity is obvious, not much has been systematically documented in this regard. Lacking also is an understanding of the factor responsible for disruption other than widowhood, nature of problems faced by women afterwards, the coping strategy they adopt, extent and adequacy of the social and institutional support. This study attempted to explore the situation in the light of the above by applying social science methods in Matlab field site of ICDDR,B. The study area covers 6 villages. In-depth interviews with 18 women were carried repeatedly during January to April of 1995.

It was revealed that in addition to divorce and widowhood, marital disruption also takes place due to abandonment of wife by the husband. Most of the divorces and abandonments took place within five years of marriage. The process of marriage had some role to play in the fate of the marriage. Quick marriages without knowing much about the groom or not caring to know have been prevalent in most of the divorce and abandonment cases. No pattern in the occupation and background of the husbands was observed.

After marital disruption, some women with single status had lived on their own, and some were dependent on others (both parents and in-laws). The living arrangement affected greatly her workload and opportunity to utilize economic avenues open for her. The social support system has helped some women to recover some of her rights from a broken marriage but on the whole it could not play effective role in case of abandonment. The concept of getting back the mehr did not seem to exist, but there were instances where the divorced women got back their dowry either in full or part.

The coping strategies differed from case to case, but the main strategy involved looking for financial opportunities. Absence of regular income source was a big problem for most of them, for which they are sometimes apprehensive to take loans. Source of independent income, however small that be, makes significant difference in the life pattern of a woman. Their workload also discouraged them to try for new ventures even if they had the opportunity. In case of taking loan from BRAG, some of them adhered to be passive loanee. Although afraid to take loan, many of these women participated in skill training and in some instances their single status seemed to be an advantage.

Related information

  • Writer Name: Mehnaz Momen, Abbas Bhuiya, Mushtaque Chowdhury
  • Published Date: Saturday, 11 November 1995
  • Country: Bangladesh