By Sheshu Babu*
While many reports indicate women face immense hardships in their lives, there is one more report indicating their distress. Almost four in 10 women who commit suicide are from India: 71.2% of women who commit suicide were under the group 15-39 age group between 1990-2016, according to the findings published in a paper titled “Gender Differentials and State Variations in Suicide Deaths in India: The Global Burden of Disease Study 1990-2016″ which appeared in the “Lancet Public Health”.
The study found that India’s contribution to global suicide deaths increased from 25.3% in 1990 to 36.6% in 2016 among women. The suicide rate in India is 15 per one lakh for women, double that of the global rate of suicide of women in 2016, which is 7%. Suicide rate of men was 24% when compared to women’s suicide rate of 37%.
The report said that 63% of all suicide deaths reported in India were under the age group 15-39. Suicide ranked first in India as the cause of death compared to its third rank globally in this age group it said.
There was an increase of 40% in the number of suicide deaths between 1990- 2016 with an estimated 2,30,314 in 2016, indicating that “disproportionately high suicide deaths in India are a public health crisis”, according to the lead author of a study by Professor Rakhi Dandona from the Public Health Foundation of India. “The suicide death rate (SDR) has reduced by 15 percent from 1990 to 2016”, she said. The study found wide variations in suicide death rates in India across states.
Reasons for suicide deaths
One of the reasons may be related to women unable to adjust after marriage. Married women accounted for a high proportion of suicide deaths in India, the study stated. The Indian marriage system is less protective against suicide for women.
Many women face arranged and early marriage, young motherhood, low social status, domestic violence and almost total economic dependence.
The prevalence of child marriage is highest in Scheduled Tribes (15%) followed by Scheduled Castes (13%), according to a report released by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). According to the report, this phenomenon is evident among the top 10 states with the highest prevalence of child marriage.
Though there are indications that child marriages are decreasing, they are still very much prevalent in rural areas. Hence, the rate of suicides may be high in lower strata of society including Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and Dalits due to problems associated with early marriage and forced marriage.
Pressure from family members of husbands, especially relating to dowry, may also have impact on women committing suicide. Due to modern trends of luxurious life style, women are being harassed to get ornaments or lands or money in the shape of dowry.
As asking for dowry openly is illegal, husbands and in-laws are adopting other ways to get their demands met. Helpless women are, thus, forced to take extreme steps, unable to force their parents for fulfilling economic demands. Failures in education, employment and love affairs, too, have a role in suicide deaths in modern times.
Besides, personal and health reasons are also reasons in increase of deaths by suicide in women.
The situation is serious and warrants urgent action. As Dandona said, “The trends in SDRs in women in this study suggest the need to further assess the complex relationships between gender and suicidal behaviour to facilitate women- specific suicide prevention strategies. Present system of patriarchy is mostly contributing to women suicide death rates. Empowerment programs should be implemented with greater urgency.”
The writer from anywhere and everywhere is concerned with rising inequality and values Sahir Ludhiyanvi lyric:
“Aurat ney janam diya mardon ko
Mardon ney usey bazaar diya… ”
(Woman has given birth to men
But men gave her the marketplace…)