PESHAWAR: More young women are committing suicide than men in Chitral region due to domestic violence, academic failure and family pressure for marriage, shows a recent study published by the Pakistan Journal of Criminology.

According to the ‘Rising Trend of Suicides among Youth in Chitral: A Sociological Analysis’ conducted by teachers Noor Sanauddin and Dr Imran Sajid of the University of Peshawar and Zafar Ahmad of the Jehanzeb College Swat, 176 people ended life in Chitral region from 2013 to 2019 and 58 per cent of them (102) were women.

It noted that the 15-30 age bracket was the most vulnerable to suicide as 144 of 176 cases fell in it.

The study said women were more likely to end their life between 15 and 30 years of age as 92 of the women, who committed suicide during the period, belonged to that age bracket.

Study shows 176 people ended life in region from 2013 to 2019 with 58pc being women

According to it, 16 men, who had ended life, belonged to the 30-45 age group. It said the suicide tendency decreased sharply for both men and women aged 40 and above.

Researcher Zafar Ahmed told Dawn that he and other researchers analysed suicide cases in Chitral in light of French sociologist Emile Durkheim’s Theory of Suicide.

He said the study argued that the traditional culture of Chitral was subjected to drastic social change in a very short time.

Mr Ahmed said social change had made youth aware of their rights but their aspirations from the current modern times were thwarted by centuries-old local traditions.

“Culture, traditions and festivals, which once used to give socio-cultural identity to the individuals, have grown weak and so do the bonds and the meanings necessary for keeping individuals into a cohesive whole.

“The culture is in a state, where traditional norms tend to disappear yet are not fully replaced by the new ones, what could be called anomie. The mind has become split between tradition and modernity creating uncertainty regarding how to live a balanced life which has increased vulnerability towards suicide,” he said.

The study listed the family disputes or mostly issues with in-laws, violence by brothers or husbands, allegations of love affairs, cultural attitudes towards women’s role in marriage, marriage against parent’s will, the burden of work, high expectations and allegations for the bad socialisation, and academic failure of children as reason for women’s suicides.

Besides, it has also listed the academic pressure or craze for success as another reason for the growing suicide incidence.

The study noted that in the district, education was considered the ladder for social mobility and there was much emphasis on it creating a culture where success was worshipped and underachieving was demonised.

“A local intellectual said congratulating those who gain success in the job market or in academia is mandatory here. The local media and the social media glorify the achievers as the proud Chitrali (Fakhr-i-Chitral)” it said.

The study noted that family members instilled their dead aspirations into their children and the result was intense stress on the youths and frustrations for those who fail to secure good grades in exams.

“A young boy, who had attempted suicide, said ‘too much’ expectation had resulted in his academic failure and ultimately led him to attempt suicide. On one occasion, six female students committed suicide less than a week after exam results were declared,” it noted. Besides, it said that youths were also committing suicide as a protest or an act of revenge.

“In Chitral, the rapid social change has brought the aspirations of youth into a clash with traditions creating an annoyance for the youths. The youths protest by ending their own lives, perhaps they find no other option,” it said.

It said threatening to commit suicide was quite a familiar dialogue in Chitral.

The researchers noted that the traditional culture of Chitral was largely developed and preserved in isolation and remained aloof from the rest of the country due to the geographical isolation,

They added that local culture used to provide socio-cultural identity and security to the natives by binding them into a cohesive whole for centuries but that security started to vanish after the region suddenly witnessed drastic social change facilitated by the telecommunication revolution, education and investment in the social sector. “This phenomenon disturbed the traditional worldview which resulted in anomie,” the study said.

“Since young people are the agents of this change, their aspirations clash with the dominant traditions. A hostile environment is created for those who deviate from the traditional ethos. The situation is more severe for young women as socio-cultural taboos restrict their choices,” it added.

The study said sympathetic response of the community towards the victims, portraying them as the oppressed, condemning the potential perpetrators, surrendering to the demands of suicide survivors and, of course, the cultural unacceptability of homicide was creating a situation where anger internalised by the youths was expressed in the form of suicide.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2022

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