The question " Explain why suicide among young women is increasing in Indian society." was asked in the Mains 2023 GS Paper 1. Let us look at the model answer to this question.
Answer: Every hour, one Indian woman of age 15-39 years takes her own life. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the suicide rate for young Indian women has risen from 12.7 per 1,00,000 in 2011 to 17.5 per 1,00,000 in 2021. This trend calls for urgent action as we seem to be losing the battle to protect the mental health and well-being of our future generation.
Factors Causing the Rise of Suicides Among Young Women in India
- Feeling of Relative Deprivation: Increased education and empowerment of young women are clashing with rigid societal norms, causing conflict and suicidal tendencies.
- For example, in South India, despite high female literacy, there is a clash with traditional norms, leading to attempt of suicide.
- Impact of modernity on marriage: The rise of love marriages, particularly inter-caste and inter-faith marriages,; and live-in relationships has led to individualism but also has increased loneliness in young aspirational women, raising the risk of suicide.
- Change in Family System: A decrease in joint families makes young housewives more vulnerable to mental health issues and suicide. Over 50% of female suicides are housewives.
- Sustained Patriarchy and Gender Discrimination: Indian society has remained largely patriarchal with systemic discrimination against women starting from birth.
- For instance, compulsory marriage, subsequent domestic violence, marital rape and dowry harassment are still prevalent in the Indian society.
- Domestic Violence: As per NFHS-5 data, 31% of married women faced spousal violence. The trauma of physical, emotional and sexual abuse in marital homes leads to mental health issues and suicidal tendencies.
- Vulnerability of young women: Due to their age group (15-39), young women are comparatively more vulnerable to the social customs and traditions due to their female sexual identity.
- For example, over 60% of rape victims are aged 18-30 years. Stigma and lack of support aggravate psychological distress.
- Early Marriage: Child marriage remains widespread with 23.3% of Indian women aged 20-24 married before age 18 (NFHS-5). Early marriage truncates education and exposes young girls to abusive marital relationships.
- For instance, suicide is the leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19 in India (UNICEF).
- Limited Opportunities: Lack of social and financial independence coupled with restrictions on movement outside homes increases hopelessness among young women.
- For example, in 2021, unemployment was cited as a cause of 5% of total suicides by women as per NCRB data.
- Technology: While connecting young people, excessive social media use leads to unrealistic comparisons, cyberbullying and isolation - increasing depression and suicidal tendencies.
Combating India's rising female suicide rate requires a multi-pronged approach - gender sensitization programs, expanding counselling services and women's helplines, along systemic efforts to promote education, financial independence and social liberty for women. Collective efforts from family members, health planners, policymakers, and NGOs are essential to prevent these suicides.