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      October 27, 2013


Suicide: An emerging issue in the context of Chitral
Committing suicide is not a new phenomenon in todayís world. It exists almost in every society with different forms and ratio among different age groups. The reasons, factors, and ways of suicide vary from country to country, area to area, and even individual to individual, depending on the socio-cultural and geo-economic circumstances of the specific regional and local context. However, mental illness, depression, tension are generally considered as some of the major reasons of suicide in any society. In Pakistan, we see and know about those cases which are reported or highlighted through media whereas many suicide cases happen in rural or remote parts of the country are never reported or highlighted by media.

In the recent years suicide has become an alarming phenomenon in the region of Chitral. The number of suicide among the youth, especially in young females (both married and unmarried), is rapidly increasing. So far no proper research work has been carried out by any individual or institution in order to explore the causes or reasons behind this issue. There can be many reasons but being the person who belongs to that area, grown up in that culture and being an independent observer of the situation an attempt is made in this article to highlight and reflect on some of the major reasons of suicide in Chitral.

1. Forced Marriage
Most of the suicide cases, reported to police and media are directly or indirectly linked with the local marriage system. Marriage is a very important event in oneís life and it should be decided with the willingness and acceptance of both the parties that is male and female, rather than the imposition and dictation of the parents or families. Unfortunately, in most areas of Chitral, similar to some other tribal parts of Pakistan, most of the females are still deprived from their fundamental rights due to some tribal or cultural norms which oppose human rights and cannot be encouraged and appreciated in todayís civilized and modern world. For example, it is common observation that males are free to select or choose their life partner (wife), while females donít have right to choose, they even cannot openly express their willingness or unwillingness about marriage rather in many cases, decision about their marriage is made by their parents or relatives and the decision is imposed on them. In such situations females have almost four options to consider i.e. 1) accepts the imposed decision, 2) reject the decision, 3) elopes with another male whom she likes or want, 4) commit suicide.
Those females who follow any one of the first three options mentioned above, face number of challenges in their marital life. How these challenges then lead them to commit suicide, are briefly discussed here:-

1. Most of the females who accept the imposed decision of their marriage face huge challenges after the marriage because of many reasons such as lack of understanding with her husband, mismatch, and conflict with mother-in-law or family members and consequently they want separation from their husbands. They seek help and support from their parents but most of the time it has been observed that they are tortured and ignored from both sides i.e. from her parents and husbandís family. Such ill fated females feel desperate and helpless, and finally they desire to get rid from such situation by committing suicide. One of the friends of a girl who committed suicide one year back, said, ďwhen someone will be ignored by all the care takers then the girl has no option except suicideĒ.

2. Females who reject the decision due to any reason face lot of criticism and challenges from their parents and other close relatives who are involved in that decision. They (girls) are threatened, tortured, treated unfairly, and always blamed as disobedient daughters. Their emotions, needs, and choices are never valued by the families and as a result they become totally disappointed and end their lives.

3. Those who decide to elope with their favorite one are always seen with bad eyes by their families, society, or community because culturally this act from a female side is seen as unethical and as an insult to the family, society or community to whom she belongs. In some cases such females are never allowed to come back to their homes and family members boycott them socially. However, in some cases after getting a lot of money (as a fine) from the family of males involved, females are allowed to visit their parentís homes, but they never get that respect and care from their family members which they received before eloping.

2. Autocratic attitude of parents or elders towards their children
No one can deny the significance of parentís role or elders in the success and holistic development of their children. It is natural that children always seek hope and help from their parents first and then from others, in distress or difficult time. Therefore, in the incident of suicides, parentís role and responsibilities cannot be ignored. It is common observation in Chitral that most of the parents show autocratic and rigid attitude towards their children especially to the female, either due to lack of awareness about childrenís training or due to their tribal and cultural mentality. On the other side, todayís children are living in a globalized village; they are linked with the world through social media and other means. They are highly influenced by modernity and media i.e. their ways of looking at the things are totally different from that of their parents, they believe in freedom, prefer rational and logical decisions instead of valuing traditions, customs, or old norms. In such circumstances children cannot be dictated or forced to follow particular traditional, cultural, or tribal value. Unfortunately, there are parents who do not bother to listen to their childrenís needs, feelings and emotions, rather they dictate and impose their thinking and decision on them. Consequently, the gap exists between parents and children and of misunderstanding and mutual conflicts increase day by day and at a certain point of time some children become disappointed and find themselves hopeless and helpless, thus they end their lives by committing suicide.

3. Over confidence of parents
Unlike the rigid parents, it is also observed that some parents give extra ordinary freedom to their children and show overconfidence on them. They (parents) provide all modern facilities and luxuries to their children but not properly monitor and supervise them in order to know their childrenís activities, where they go and in what kinds of activities they are involved in their daily lives. These facilities or more freedom, are sometimes misused by the children which cause bad name for them in society and they canít bear this situation and commit suicide.

4. Tribe-ism
It is an interesting and shocking phenomenon too, that with the rise and development in education in the area, the tribe-ism, or struggle for clan dominancy is also increasing day by day. Some tribes or clans have set their own social or tribal values in some matters and they are not ready to compromise in those tribal values, for example, there are few tribes which donít encourage their men and women to marry with other clanís or tribeís men and women. This practice and tribal norm is mostly observed in Upper Chitral. In addition, only two religious communities live together in Chitral i.e. Sunni and Ismaili Muslims. Sunni Muslims are in majority while Ismaili Muslims are in minority and marriage of men and women within the two communities is discouraged by the community members especially by the religious scholars. In such a tribally and religiously divided society females and males donít find easy way to get married as per their choice and requirement because they are culturally and tribally bound. Thus, a large number of boys and girls, having appropriate age level for marriage, remain unmarried for long time and such situation leads towards the social crimes or evils. Moreover, If any girl acts against the tribal or cultural values then she is not forgiven by the family or tribe and she face big hurdle to live a comfortable life, ultimately such girls commit suicide. Therefore, tribe-ism or clan system is another factor which limits the freedom and rights of women, and promotes suicide incidents.

To summarize the above discussion, it is argued that the major reason of suicide in the region of Chitral is associated with the decision process of marriage of a female. Due to lack of education and awareness about women rights, pressure of tribal and cultural values of the society, parents and relatives are bound to take decision about their females. Therefore, the ratio of suicide among female is comparatively higher then male and rapidly increasing day by day.

Ibadur Rehman


mail @ chitraltimes@gmail.com

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