Indian women are killing themselves and we have nothing to offer them but platitudes

by September 15, 2018 0 comments
smiles and determination of rural Indian women #5

smiles and determination of rural Indian women #5

At a time when India often appears puffed with conceit to others vis-a-vis its self-avowed leadership position in various global fora and the Government has earned praise for its Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign, here are some very sobering statistics. According to a study published in renowned medical journal The Lancet, India accounted for nearly 37 per cent of global suicide deaths among women (and around 24 per cent among men) in 2016. This has to be the most depressing statistic from a credible authority in the recent past and the figures throw up a contrasting picture, divorced from reality and propaganda, of the state of women in our country. While there is, understandably, some pushback against Western media outlets and organisations which have in the past portrayed India as the ‘rape capital of the world’ given the shamefully high rates of sexual assaults in our country, this latest finding ought to make us all pause, introspect and course correct before gender inequality is normalised. With rising pressures on women in all aspects of their lives and a conspicuous lack of corresponding emotional, familial, economic, psychological and social tools for them to deal with these pressures, Indian women are obviously not being able to cope. And we, as a nation, have failed them at least to the extent of not being proactive enough in ensuring support to them to build resilience. Suicide cannot and should not be characterised as an inability to deal with setbacks or failures, especially among women, as even apparently successful and independent individuals end up taking their own lives. Recently, for example, a 35-year-old woman achiever who was an officer of Indian Revenue Service committed suicide by hanging herself from the ceiling of her home in Jaipur. A Lancet study says that 94,380 women committed suicide in India in 2016 and though the corresponding figures from the National Crime Records Bureau put the figure at 42,088, that could be for a variety of reasons including under-reporting because suicide and abetment to suicide are criminal offences in India. What is even more worrying is the finding that 71.2 per cent of Indian women who commit suicide are from the 15-39 age group, the crucial demographic when a person could fairly be expected to be full of hope and busy fulfilling her aspirations in all fields. It should be pointed out that suicide rate among women, even at current high levels, has been declining over the past three decades but that is not a cause for patting ourselves on the back but a pointer to how much more remains to be done. These are cold, hard facts and the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from them is that there is a widespread absence of hope allied to a feeling of sheer helplessness among those who take this extreme step.

The Global Burden of Disease Study 1990-2016 found drastic variations in suicide rates across various States in India. It has become the most pressing public health crisis of our times. Suicide ranks first as the cause of death in India (globally, it is third). The causes for the unfolding suicide epidemic in India are best explored by specialists. But it certainly can be said given the age bracket with the highest suicide rate in India, early marriages, academic under-achievement, body shaming, character assassination, marital issues including incompatibility, dowry and domestic violence, reproductive pressure especially for a male child, career stresses and anxieties, lack of support in dealing with household stress and being overburdened with housework, physical and mental health issues and a lack of autonomous decision-making are all in the mix. It is time the taboo around suicide ends and empathetic support is provided to those who see no hope by both the state and more importantly society.

Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer

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