- Geeta Pandey
- BBC News, Delhi
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 61 housewives commit suicide every day in India. Last year alone it was 22,372.
The group represents 14.6% of the total 153,052 suicides in Asia by 2020 and more than 50% of women who have committed suicide.
Last year was no exception. Since 1997, when the government began collecting suicides and job type data, more than 20,000 housewives have committed suicide each year. In 2009 there were 25,092.
The press often refers to these deaths as “family problems” or “marital affairs”. But what really drives thousands of women to commit suicide?
Psychiatrists point out that the main causes are widespread domestic violence in Indian society – a recent government survey found that 30% of respondents said they were sometimes subjected to spousal violence – and the burden of domestic work. Repression for many.
“Women are really resilient, but there is a limit to tolerance,” says Dr Usha Verma Srivastava, a medical psychologist from the northern city of Varanasi.
“Most women get married when they reach the age of 18. Then you become a wife and daughter-in-law and do all the housework, cooking, cleaning and other household chores all day. The restrictions imposed on them, they have less personal freedom and they have no money of their own, their Education and dreams are unimportant, and their ambitions slowly fade, and then frustration and disappointment develop and existence becomes a torture. ”
Dr. Srivastava explains that there are other causes in older women. “As babies grow up and leave home, many people experience empty nest syndrome and experience menopausal symptoms, which can lead to depression and crying.”
But, according to the doctor, Suicides are easily preventable: “If one stops for a second, they will most likely give up.”
Psychiatrist Chaumitra Pathare explains that many suicides in India are the result of provocation: “The man comes and beats his wife and she commits suicide.”
Bhattarai cites study data that one-third of Indian women who commit suicide have a history of being victims of domestic violence. But domestic abuse does not even appear in the statistics of the National Criminal Records Bureau.
Saitali Sinha, a psychologist at Visa, a Bangalore-based psychiatric clinic, said, “Many women who are caught up in extra-curricular activities maintain their sanity only through the informal support they receive.”
Sinha, who worked for three years at the Government Psychiatric Hospital in Bombay, counseled survivors of suicide attempts and found that women formed small support groups to travel together on trains or to go out with neighbors to buy vegetables.
“They have no other way to express themselves, and sometimes their sanity depends only on the person with whom they can have that conversation,” he says. He adds that infection and isolation made the situation worse.
“Housewives had a safe place when men went to work, but it disappeared during epidemics. In cases of domestic violence, it often means that they become entangled with their attackers. And tragedy grows over time, and suicide is the last resort. ”
India has the highest suicide rate in the world. 25% of Indian men and 36% of women worldwide commit suicide in the 15-39 age group.
But Patare, who studies mental health problems and suicide prevention, says official Indian figures do not reflect the true extent of the problem.
“According to a study of nearly 14 million people in 2.4 million households between 1998 and 2014 or a study published in The Lancet, suicide rates in India are between 30 and one. 100% below true”.
The expert assures that suicide is not a topic that is openly discussed. “There is shame and stigma in it and many families are trying to cover it up. There is no compulsion to do autopsies in rural India and the rich are relying on the local police to show suicide as an accidental death.”
At a time when India is developing a national suicide prevention strategy, Dr. Bhattarai believes that improving data quality should be a priority.
“The number of suicide attempts in India is ridiculously low. Anywhere in the world, they are generally 4 to 20 less than the actual number of suicides. So if there are 150,000 suicides per year in India, the number of attempts should be between 600,000 and six million.
Dr. Bhattare points out that the population of potential suicides should be given priority, but the lack of reliable data makes it difficult to prevent suicide worldwide.
“The United Nations aims to reduce suicides worldwide by one-third by 2030, but in recent years in India they have increased by 10% over the past year. Reducing them is still a dream.”
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