Two girls in Parwak village of upper Chitral got detailed mark sheets of their matriculation examination from school and left but never reached home. The reason was they were so frustrated by their failure in examination that they killed themselves by jumping into the river.
Another girl from Jughoor village jumped into the river to commit suicide against the planned forced marriage while a local unmarried girl ended life after brother admonished her for quarreling with his wife.
These are some of the many suicide cases reported in Chitral over the last few years. To the alarm of many, most of such deaths were of young and unmarried girls. According to a local civil society organisation’s survey, the average number of suicide cases among local women over the last five years is over 50, which means four incidents of self-annihilation are reported every month and one every week.
The rate of suicide among local unmarried girls at their teen years was the highest (68 per cent of the total number of those committing suicide, which signified a complex phenomenon posing a great challenge to the society to arrest the upsetting trend.Surprisingly enough, more than 90 per cent of those killing themselves used the river as the medium to end life.
Among the reasons to commit suicide by the fairer sex were forced marriages, negligence on part of parents towards daughters, the changing social values and stringent social norms. Also to blame are absence of shelter homes and psychotherapy facilities.
According to Dr Hamza of a government hospital, youths in Chitral have an abnormally high incidence of depressive disorder. He was of the view that better public awareness could help reduce the suicide tendency and that was quite possible if the early warning signs were traced and calculated, which propped up as a result of bereavement.
Dr Hamza, however, said the process was highly spontaneous and it took sometimes only a few seconds for a bereaved person to take the extreme step of ending life. He emphasised that the tendency could be reduced to the lower degree by proper education and for the purpose, the consultation facility must be created in the major healthcare centres in the district.
Dr Inayatullah Faizi, a social scientist from Chitral, termed the generation gap as the major factor behind strained relations between parents and their children and said the prevailing situation was that the two generations were poles apart in their perspectives. He said misuse of mobile phones and other gadgets by the new generation created nothing but complexities. The social scientist opined that when a girl defied or tried to defy parents, the latter found the behaviour to be too difficult to tolerate.
He said the incidence of suicide had quite low frequency a decade ago, which had been calculated at less than one a year. Imtiaz Ahmad, former manger of Regional Women Empowerment Project of Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, said economic and political empowerment of women could help mitigate the rising tendency of suicide.
He said his organisation had initiated a number of projects in the area for women’s emancipation. Mr Ahmad said his organisation had found suicides among unmarried girls to be a social problem, which needed proper and scientific study on the basis of which solutions could be suggested to check it effectively.
Niaz A Niazi advocate, chairman of Human Rights Programme, a Chitral-based organisation, is of the strong conviction that more than half of the total number of suicides were farce and in reality, they were murder cases and a sort of honour killings.He said even if an innocent girl was not murdered by parents and other relatives, she was constrained to such straits that she was left with no choice but to commit suicide. Mr Niazi said police had always exhibited their slackness to unearth the real cause of suicide and arrested the culprit, which had emboldened others to annihilate their daughters and sisters who, they thought, earned their family a bad name.
Quoting some incidents, he said in Booni village, just two months ago, a married woman, 24, was stated to have committed suicide by jumping into the river. “When her body was retrieved from water, it was found that she was chopped to death before being thrown into the river. Her husband confessed to the crime before police,” he said.
Mr Niazi said the body of unmarried girl Qadeer Gul of Oveer village was thrown into the river after murder. He said on the insistence of the human rights organisations, her grave was exhumed and it was found that she died after her head was hammered. Mr Niazi said most of such cases went untraced as police filed the case after some preliminary and superficial investigation under Section 174 of CrPC.–Dawn