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agunah

in Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, a woman who is presumed to be widowed but who cannot remarry because evidence of her husband's death does not satisfy legal requirements. The plight of the agunah has generated voluminous and complex treatment in Halakhic literature. Although religious courts are not empowered to grant remarriage without indisputable evidence of the spouse's death, human considerations have led to a de facto relaxation of the law of evidence. The testimony of a single witness has thus been accepted as sufficient proof of death even when the body of the presumed deceased has not been recovered from, for example, a battlefield, the sea, or a disaster area.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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