India’s endemic gender-based violence and culturally sanctioned degradation of women has often come under strict scrutiny, prompting waves of criticism and protests.
However, a recently released study in the U.K. medical journal highlighted the severity of the issue.
According to an alarming study published in the Lancet journal, nearly two in every five women in the world who take their own lives are Indian.
The country, which comprises 17.8 million of the global population, accounted for 37 percent of the global suicide deaths among women and 24.3 percent among men.
The study revealed suicides have increased from 164,404 in 1990 to 230,314 in 2016 in India.
The driving factor behind Indian women ending their own lives was largely attributed to the marriage setups in the country, which leaves the female population with little or no control over their lives. Also, Indian women who die by suicide were, by a large margin, aged under 35.
“It shows girls in India are in serious trouble,” said Poonam Muttreja, the executive director of the Population Foundation of India, a public health group.
Muttreja, along with other women’s advocates, blamed the disturbing stats on early marriages – one-fifth of Indian women still marry before the age of 15 – which leaves a young woman at a mercy of a man who may treats her whatever way he likes.
Caught between abusive relationship, societal expectations, economic dependence, and at times, young motherhood, a woman is really left with no escape except for, apparently, death which puts all her troubles to rest once and for all.
"Many women face arranged marriages by force. They have dreams and aspirations, but they often do not get supportive spouses. Sometimes their parents don't support them either. They are trapped in a difficult system and social milieu," said co-author of the Lancet study, Dr. Vikram Patel.
According to the researchers, the suicide rate in India was three times higher than what one might expect for a country with similar geography and socio-economic indicators.
“Our social norms are very regressive,” said Muttreja. “In the village, a girl is called her father’s daughter, then she is her husband’s wife, and when she has a son, she is her son’s mother.”
The study also noted how the fact that India has recently decriminalized suicide could mean the true rate was even higher than reported as people tend to hide such instances due to stigma attached to it and obviously the risk of police interference.
“The disproportionately high suicide deaths in India are a public health crisis,” said the authors, who are mostly affiliated with Indian public health research groups.
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