24-year-old Punita Devi's husband is one of four men convicted of raping and killing a young physiotherapy student on a New Delhi bus last December. Now that her husband is sentenced to death, she's sentenced to a life of poverty and rejection: not because he's a rapist, but because she's a woman without a husband.
This devastating Wall Street Journal piece makes it clear Devi's not an anomaly because of her husband's infamous crime:
Ms. Devi's misfortune to be married to a notorious convict makes her situation seem extraordinary. But in fact, the basic difficulties she now faces are a reality of life in the Indian countryside. For the poorest, a single setback—loss of a breadwinner, lackluster crop, illness—can propel a family into crisis. For rural women, it can be especially dire.
Talk about dire:
"Keep yourself and the child well," [Akshay Kumar Singh] told her, according to Ms. Devi. She says he told her: "I will come home. I am innocent."
But without her husband's wages, Ms. Devi says, she hasn't been able to get medical treatment for her son. The child's diet is also suffering, as mother and child subsist on handouts from Mr. Singh's brothers and their wives.
"I feel weak," says Ms. Devi. "Nobody thinks well of a woman whose husband isn't with her for support."
The dire doesn't stop:
Speaking about the events of that night, Ms. Devi says she doesn't understand how a woman could be out for the evening with a man who wasn't her husband.
The story illustrates how the anti-rape initiatives India has instated thus far (harsher laws, punishments for repeat offenders, police education) will only go so far.