DELHI: Meenu, 25, tried to commit suicide three years ago when her husband tried to stop her from following her career and insisted that she focus on raising their first child.
She was saved by a timely intervention from her neighbor.
“I come from a small town in Kerala (a southern Indian state), and did a professional course for nursing to make a career. I couldn’t reconcile myself to being a fulltime housewife,” Meenu, who is a nurse in a local hospital, told Arab News.
This week, a study by the Lancet, a British health journal, revealed that the number of women committing suicide in India is the highest in the world, terming it a “public health crisis.”
India in 2016 accounted for 17.8 percent of the global population but 36.6 percent of female suicides, making it the “ninth leading cause of death” in the country that year, the Lancet said. Of the female suicides in India, 71.2 percent were in the age group 15-39 years.
“Married women account for the highest proportion of suicide deaths among women in India. Marriage is known to be less protective against suicide for women because of arranged and early marriage, young motherhood, low social status, domestic violence, and economic dependence”, the journal wrote.
Rakhi Dandona, professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told Arab News: “The lower status of women in society, gender discrimination, different aspirations and different responsibilities are all factors responsible for female suicides in India.”
She said: “Domestic violence is the biggest factor. Among girls and women depression is more common, and suicide rates are higher in most of the southern Indian states, which are prosperous.”
Women’s rights activists and those working on gender equality say the study calls for action and cannot be ignored.
“This is very sobering data. We never realized the number was so high, especially for girls,” said Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India, a public health group.
Jameela Nishat, who runs the Shaheen Women Resource and Welfare Association, said: “Domestic violence is one of the major factors for suicide among women.”
She added: “Last month, a 25-year-old girl committed suicide because she couldn’t cope with the marital situation. Every month we get a case like this, and most of them are from middle-class families.”
Dandona said: “We need a national suicide-prevention plan. Only then will people start talking about suicide.”
She added: “We need to know why people get mental-health issues. This has to be a macro-level, multi-sectoral exercise.”