My bangles are broken
my days of shame are gone.
I have one small son, one calf, one field.
A calf to feed, a son to nurture.
but the land, baiji, this half acre of earth
to feed me, to rest my head.
(Malli, a Rajasthani widow I interviewed in 1987)
This paper is woven around two main arguments: One, to ensure effective economic security for widows in India it is necessary to ensure their command over property; and in the context of rural India, the most significant form of property is arable land. Two, we need to see widows not as a category in themselves, but as embodying a stage in most women's life cycle—a stage which is often coterminous with old age. Effective economic security during widowhood would therefore need securing women's property rights prior to the event, not only after it, namely securing their claims as daughters in addition to their claims as widows.