Desperate Deaths a Reality - Editorial

Desperate Deaths a Reality

Why do people kill themselves? What may be the reason behind someone’s death? How could a mother kill her children and kill herself? These are the questions unanswered in our minds nowadays.

In the past couple of weeks, two distressing cases of suicide made it to the headlines. Both cases involved women and their children. The cases gained public attention because both women also killed their children before killing themselves. These suicides highlight the fact that suicide is the number one cause of death for Nepali Women. According to a survey by the Family Health Division conducted in 2010, 16 percent of all unnatural female deaths are the result of suicide. And the trend is getting worse. Amid development in many social, economic, and political arenas, including education and health services, figures show that women in Nepal find life harder now than they did more than a decade ago. Fourteen years ago, in 1998, suicide was the third largest killer.

In the past decade or so, reasons to end one’s life have apparently only increased. Reports, like the “Review of the evidence: suicide among women in Nepal,” jointly published by UNFPA and UKaid suggest that violence and abuse continue to be the leading cause of suicide among Nepali women. But going by the news reports and societal justifications, they’d have you think otherwise. The suicides are usually attributed to poverty, and the media does little to investigate the causes further. Poverty may indeed have a hand, but more often than not, there are personal, emotional, and physical grievances at play. The blanket poverty justification that makes for sweeping headlines and fits well with our national image of being “one of the poorest countries in the world,” is only one factor.

An immediate feminist response to suicide among Nepali women may be that we live in a patriarchal society where the man rules at the social, economic, and psychological expense of the woman. But that too is a simplification. Nepal is a patriarchal country, but so is the whole world. Disturbingly, case after case shows that women have a role in bringing down their own.

The case of 42-year old Kabita Thapa back in August is an example. She hung herself, unable to endure the humiliation meted out to her—not by her in-laws, her husband or neighbors but by the local women’s group. The members of the women’s group burst through her doors and smeared her with soot while the neighbors watched this happen. Instead of counseling Thapa, helping her with her problems, the women decided this was the best way to “kick her drinking habit and her illicit relationship.” The tragedy is that the stigma over women and drinking, and the trend of immediately suspecting “illicit” relations between a man and woman are more often than not, internalized and practiced by women themselves.

The subordination of women thus continues through double impact whereby patriarchy, violence, and abuse affect many women, and the situation is made worse by other women. And ironically enough, this doesn’t stop victims of abuse from pointing fingers at others in a similar situation either. The prevalence of suicide is thus a result of many factors and its only cure is to uproot the inequality both materially and in the minds of men and women.

Our society does play a major role on those people who has desperate with so many problems in their life and could save them from killing themselves if we could just understand their problem, we just give them a helping hand, if we could just whisper a good word towards their bad habit. Let’s begin today.

Source: This Editorial was published in Kantipur Online by its Editor earlier.