January 24, 2010

Indian Women

The other day my flat-mate, who was reading a book by an Indian author for her book-club, wanted to know few facts given in the book. During the discussion, she brought up the notion of Indian women having it easy as opposed to Indian men, something she gathered from the book, (I haven’t read the book, so can’t comment exactly) and I was shocked! How and why any Indian can say that? And that’s when I realize that the author must be a man. As it turns out she was reading White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

As an answer to her query, I quoted a simple statistics that I had read a few days ago: Out of all the suicides reported in India, about 20% are committed by house wives. They form the second largest group (largest group being self employed: read farmers) of 'professionals'** in the suicides reported to the police. Note the use of the phrase ‘reported suicides’ here. As suicide is a crime in India, quite a lot of suicides go unreported, especially in states like Bihar and UP. And I have a hunch that suicides by house wives would be covered up more than any other ‘professional’ group.


According this study, conducted in Vellore, India, “the rates of suicides are several fold higher than those reported anywhere in the world, especially in young women”. Instead of relying on police reports, this study was based on autopsy reports obtained from local hospital as well as the reports of community health worker. According to the study: “The average suicide rate for young women (age 10-19) was 148 per 100 000, and for young men (age 10-19) 58 per 100 000”. The number of suicides by girls was thrice of boys! Just FYI, globally the trends are opposite: men are more susceptible to commit suicide than women. Indian women have it easy, eh?

To start with, we already have a very skewed gender ratio in our populace due to female foeticide and infanticide: for every 1,000 boys under the age of four, there are a mere 934 girls. The one’s that are allowed to live, are constantly told about how much burden their life is to their parents. Imagine telling that to a child and that too your own child! Do these people have a heart? And then there is that bias towards the son, shown so openly, so shamelessly. No wonder, by the time these girls reach teenage, they have no self-respect, no self-worth. I am not sure if their deaths are even mourned by their family? May be it’s just a good riddance for them.

At times, I feel so disgusted by the society we live in. I have been told since my childhood that we should be proud of our culture but times like these I am completely at loss of what am I supposed to be proud of? The way we treat our children? Or the way we treat and respect women? The way fear of society becomes more important than love of a child as much as we let our own flesh and blood get tortured and beaten? Or the way we blame the rape victims? What exactly am I supposed to be proud of? And why does our personal freedom to dress, to speak, or rather just to be poses a threat to this great Indian culture? What is so great about our culture?

Oh, I know: Family system, right? 20% of suicide are committed by house wives. 71.5% of total suicide victims were married. Our teens have the highest suicide rate in the world. These statistics indicate that our so called family system isn’t as good as portrayed. And these statistics don’t even include the domestic violence cases or the extra marital affairs.

Anything else?

BTW, did you know that in 2007, 336 suicides took place per day or 14 Suicides took place every hour. That 80 Suicides per day took place due to family problems. That 9 Suicides per day due to Love Affairs. That 5 Suicides per day due to Failure in Examination. Just quoting statistics.

Update: ** (Modified from comments below): National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) described Housewife as a profession which I think is quite appropriate. However, I think being a housewife in India should be the worst profession ever. The parents are expected to pay the dowry to her in-laws for her to become a housewife and then she is expected to serve her husband and in-laws for life. Even in slave trade, the slaves were bought and money was paid to previous "owners" and not the other way around. Even the animals are sold and bought in the same way. Then why the value of woman is so low that her parents have to pay money to get rid of her? What kind of profession is this?  And obviously, in some cases these housewives are treated worse than animals while their parents turn a blind eye and a deaf ear towards their own flesh and blood. Talk about compassion and love!

Aren't Indians supposed to be paragon of compassion and love, at least that's what Manoj Kumar had led us to believe in his numerous patriotic and oh-our-so-great-culture movies (Remember: Hai Preet Jahan Ki Reet Sada)? Or the compassion and love that he talks about is strictly for male only? Why can't parents show some of it to their own daughters? Even animals love their child, irrespective of the child's gender. How can humans be so cruel and heartless?


  1. Hmm...I've read White Tiger and I'm trying to figure out where your flatmate got the idea that women have it easy in India. :/

    Anyway, didn't know about the suicide rates...so thanks for enlightening. Did you know, the suicide rates are different here...there are more Australian women that attempt suicide but more men that commit suicide --- that's because men use better methods and are successful the first time. (I found that very interesting when I did a workshop on suicide last year)

    All these stats that you have put up though show the need more mental health awareness and getting rid of the stigma attached so people can actually go and seek help that they need!

  2. I have no words. This is simply so shocking and so horrifying and yet I am not surprised. We see this all around us all the time. I am going to quote this post to anyone who complains that I don't appreciate the Indian culture.

  3. I am not sure how she got the idea. I think I should read the book to see what she meant.

    Hmm.. that's interesting. So they can actually keep tab on number of people attempting suicide as well? wouldn't that be hard to do, given the stigma attached to mental health problems? I wonder how did they do it?

    I agree. We need a support system in our society and obviously more education about mental health problems. A guide for families to recognize the symptoms of depression. May be you can write one? At least we can spread word in the blogging community. What say you?

  4. I know. I have been simmering inside for past few days, ever since I read the report. Things like these gets me so enraged that I want to grab the collar of next person who quote the great Indian culture as an excuse to suppress women and justify the molesters and rapist.

    And the worst part: Government have these statistics. Apparently we have been collecting these data from 1967 (All the reports can be found here: http://ncrb.nic.in/adsi/main.htm) and still there is no government initiative to raise awareness for these problems! Imagine 336 suicides per day!! PER DAY. And yet no action.

  5. I totally agree on how bad our so called Indian culture that is being practised in our society is, especially in treating women. The suicide stats are not surprising, but it doesnt get noticed because theres no value for life in our country. I donno whether this is due to our huge population or actually our society doesnt care for human lives. But things change, when if the died person is our freind or relative or someone whome we know, else everyone got this "Chalta hai" attitude, so no one questions and no government takes any action. Day before yesterday i was watching "We the people" on NDTV and they were discussing about the children being pressurised due to these taent hunt progras on tv and regarding the suicides after disqualifying on TV, but all these years every children studying in school or college r being pressurised in attaining percentage and top ranks and the suicide rate of students shows it all.
    Coming back to your point on Women suicides, you never know how much of those reported suicides are actual suicides and how many are murders resulting from domestic violence and am suretheunreported deaths will be three times the percentage that gets reported.real sad state of our society.education should enlighten human beings, but it is not d case with our society......

  6. Yep, they do...because if someone attempts suicide and is unsuccessful, they are generally taken to the Emergency Dept who after treating them for the physical wounds, get a mandatory psychiatric assessment and a referral to a mental health team.

    And I'm more than happy to blog about mental health issues to see how much I can promote it. The only concern is the symptoms are what we all can go through every now and then and it's only a mental health professional that can diagnose. I have seen so many people self-diagnose based on googling some of their symptoms and then freak out after that. It's a bit of a catch-22...you want to educate people but they could misuse the information.

  7. Hmm..interesting. Wish this was mandatory in our country too. So many of them might have been saved.

    I know the evil of over-protective parenting. Once heard about a family who have a psychiatrist present in all their son's play-date to evaluate the effect of the kids around him on him. I agree that self diagnosis/ wrong diagnosis will be one of the worst side-effects of such a post, however, isn't it better than no diagnosis at all? Wouldn't it be better if family and friends recognize the signs and take them to the trained therapist for a diagnosis. No harm done, if it's just a temporary phase. But if does help identifying someone with serious problems, wouldn't it be worth it? Just a thought...

  8. That is very shocking statistics indeed. As you say, the real figures might be much higher, thanks to under reporting. It also makes me wonder if some homicides might be passed off as suicides? Especially in case of Dowry deaths.I don't know which is worse. Either way, it just goes to show how tough it is for an Indian woman to stay alive and the struggle starts right from the womb, doesn't it?

  9. Richa, There is nothing to pe proud of in Indian culture, I don't know wny people keep citing this. I have yet to find anything good!
    Also, What is good about the family system? That boys support their parents? This one thing leads to huge sense of entitlement by the parents of a "MALE", and belittement and devaluation of the girl, from the moment she is born.
    The daughter-in-law is supposed to "serve" her in-laws..and forget about her parents and supporting them. Live with them and forget about being a person.
    I have never seen a "happy" joint family- the jealousies, tensions etc. are rife, even though suppressed.
    What elses? seriously, I can't think of anything good (even as an argument) to refute.

  10. Oh I know that attitude. The value we give to human life, ours or others is shown by the way we ride and drive on the road.

    And the amount of pressure we put on our kids is so tremendous that they are depressed even before they know the meaning of life. It's really sad.

    I agree. Domestic violence is one of the major issue in India. Local authorities usually have a view of it being an internal affair of the family and hence don't interfere. It's okay to beat up another human being to pulp as long as she is women? worse: its even an acceptable social behavior.

    So far I thought India wasn't safe for women when they are on the road or outside the house, what with rising eve teasing and rape cases. But is it really safe for women to be in home?

  11. I agree.

    I remember the Manoj Kumar's those patriotic songs, the ones that describe Indians as paragon of love and compassion. I wonder if he knew that ordinary Indians are capable of murdering without any compassion? And the parents who are so happy of getting rid of their daughter that they turn a deaf ear to her pleas. Where is the compassion and love? You said it: It is tough for an Indian woman to stay alive in India. No compassion and love is shown to them or to their life.

  12. Rachna, I think the only people who are benefited by our "Great" culture are the one's who keep citing it, especially political leaders and Indian male. The latter actually gets the maximum benefit, so why mess with a good thing. Let others suffer for his sake. After all he is entitled to it as he was born as a male.

    And of course, as you pointed out, the parents of a son who expects dowry as well as a life long services of Daughter in law. I mean, that's the worst job ever. One pays to serve! I have always been unclear with the why. Even in the slave trade, the salves were bought and money was given to it's previous "owner" and not the other way round. Even the animals are bought and money is given to its previous owner. Women are supposed to be so bad that their parents have to give money to others as well as their life-long services? And forget about the way they are treated, worse than animals at times. I am yet to see any rhyme or reason in this system.

    I haven't seen a happy joint family either though I must admit that I haven't seen much of Ekta Kapoor's serials either. May be those are possible there? :)

    I know. That's the only reason I have been given: Family values. They will quote the number of divorces in western world to support their argument. I think if divorce wasn't such a big stigma in Indian society and women were given the respect they deserve, and hence making them more confident, our divorce rate would have been twice of theirs.

  13. A friend of mine once said that high divorce rates show how emancipated the country is. That is so true.. most wives/women in India would die before getting a divorce- which probably explains the high housewife suicide rate!
    I like the point you made about slaves. Yes, women are the lowest of the low, esp. in our society.

  14. Very well put indeed! I agree if there were other choices available, women don't have to take such extreme post! We wish...

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  19. It was a mellow evening. I was chatting to a friend I had not seen for ages. He looked a bit disturbed, which was quite unusual for a person who is always full of beans. When I asked him what the matter was, he told me he had read something in the newspaper that morning that had made him uneasy. It was the tragic story of a 71-year-old man who had committed suicide after his daughter-in-law threatened to file police complaints against him and his son under Sec 498A IPC (commonly known as the dowry law).
    My friend then told me about another article he had read on the rampant misuse of the dowry law in India. “It makes me wonder if 498A and its related operations should henceforth be referred to as 498A India Ltd,” he mused. “If the government wanted to list 498A India Ltd in any of the stock exchanges today, it would certainly be listed as a Navratna company.”
    Asked to clarify, he reeled off statistics he had come across in the story. “Take for instance growth. 498A India Ltd has grown at a faster rate than any industry in India, be it IT or finance. This sector has grown by almost 120 per cent in 12 years and registered phenomenal returns though investment has been practically nil. From just over 28,000 cases in 1995, the number of cases grew to 63,000 in 2007.”
    “The company’s organisational activities have touched the lives of almost 10,00,000 people since 1999,” he continued, referring to the hapless men and their parents, siblings and other relatives who have been put behind bars due to the frivolous complaints levelled against them by their wives, daughters-in-law and sisters-in-law. “The average amount needed to apply for bail is Rs 10,000 per person. The revenue generated by the government from the bail amount (simply multiply 10,00,000 by 10,000) would be phenomenal. Add to that the large sums devious wives extract from husbands merely by threatening to lodge Sec 498A against them. It’s a blooming industry.”
    I nodded my head as I tried to calculate what the final amount would be, but gave up as there were far too many zeroes for me to handle. “Of course,” added my friend, “the bail amount is to be returned to the persons concerned at the end of the trial. But how many people actually get it back? After doing the rounds of courts to prove their innocence, are they in a fit state to run around once again to reclaim the bail amount? In India, around 30 per cent of bail applications are posted for the 498A accused. 498A India Ltd is a powerful weapon that forces the husband’s family to become the proverbial goose which is then forced to lay golden eggs for all the ‘shareholders’ of the company.”
    I was now all ears. The statistics were mindboggling indeed. My friend continued. “The company 498A India Ltd has not changed its product in the last 25 years, but the use of the product has skyrocketed. No tests have been done by the company to study the effects of its products on the people against whom they are applied. The parties using the products get richer by a few crores and the parties on whom the products are used suffer irrespective of age, gender, caste, class or disability.
    “The board of directors has total immunity from prosecution and 498A India Ltd prides itself in taking good care of its customers. Now, the products of 498A are so much in demand that more such companies – Domestic Violence Act India Ltd have been started. Looking at 498A India Ltd’s stupendous success, the shareholders – mainly wives – do not want to dilute or modify its products as that will result in diminished returns for the company and its shareholders.”
    I was suitably impressed by the economics behind 498A. It was good to know that something was shining in India despite a recession existing elsewhere in the world.