Gilgit Baltistan is helplessly facing one of its major social challenges as an increasing trend of committing suicides among young people (aged 14-32 years), specifically, young women. BBC in a special report on Suicides in Gilgit-Baltistan, claimed that according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), an average of 20 women attempt suicides each year in District Ghizer, which makes it highest in Pakistan. HRCP sources say that the data they have is from the police stations which means these are only the reported figures which is just the tip of iceberg, as majority of the cases go under reported. HRCP’s Gilgit-Baltistan chapter also claims that many of the cases portrayed as “suicides” are actually cases of “honor killing”. Research is needed to be carried out for further investigation but it can be estimated (from both reported and under reported cases) that an average of three suicide cases take place each month in this region.
It is also very concerning that the rising trends of suicides are wiping out a whole youthful generation of the region and it does not surprise those in power (i.e. Political, religious and other social institutions). Young people are feeling alienated from the society, and all social institutions have failed to bridge in to this alienation.
In this focus group discussion we have highlighted the major causes and possible solutions for prevention of suicides.
Alarming cases of suicides were shared by the participants from their contextual experiences:
Three students hailing from Chitral committed suicide in August, 2018. On interrogation, it was revealed that the reason for suicide was failure in academic evaluation tests.
Another incident took place in a school in April 2018, where a student and her mother tried to harm themselves during a parent-teacher meeting. The mother and child were called in connection with result sharing where they were told that the child has failed in mathematics.
A student, who stood 2nd in his class contrary to the earlier exams where he used to get the 1st position was ridiculed by his father and he tried to harm himself later on.
A young girl from Aliabad committed suicide because of financial problem as she wanted to get admission in a private college but her parents couldn’t support her.
Worst of its kind, this another incident took place in Hunza, where a pregnant women committed suicide due to domestic violence.
According to a survey report published in early 2018, district Ghizer has the highest rates of suicides in the past 7 years. In 2000, almost 300 youth including both, boys and girls have committed suicide (said by local residents of Ghizer). Moreover, almost 23 suicide cases have been recorded among which 10 suicides were attempted within the same month. “According to Ghizer’s Superintendent of Police office, 125 people have committed suicide between 2010 and 2017 in the region. 67 of them were students, 27 house wives and 31 from other social groups”.
To identify different causes and possible solutions for prevention of suicides in Gilgit Baltistan, a focus group discussion (FGD) was carried out online with a random selection of 35 participants. The participants were teachers, students, lawyers, doctors, nurses, journalists, police personals, film-makers and political and social workers hailing from different regions of Gilgit Baltistan.
It is a general claim that the suicide rates have increased due to poverty, drug abuse, peer pressure, decreased moral and ethical values, misuse of technology, and failure in intimate relationships, fragile faith, bad deeds, and excessive freedom to women etc. but this focus group discussion has attempted to break these general claims down to their roots.
It was majorly discussed in the group that our society has seen a sudden transition where modern versus traditional conflict (in term of ideas, lifestyle and other norms) has given birth to a new kind of crisis in which the young people are facing worst kind of alienation from society and themselves. This sudden change has instilled a sense of individualist competition among young people, but the lack of opportunities to grow and avenues to vent has further intensified their existential crisis, thus taking away their sense of belongingness to a collective being and compelling them to take their own lives.
“There exists a communication gap between young people and parents/elders which is always reinforced by social taboos restraining them from sharing and discussing issues with the elders. This absence of space for the youth to express concerns and/or to seek guidance results in frustrations leading them to commit suicide”, said some respondents.
A respondent from the Police department of Gilgit-Baltistan shared some cases reported to the police in 2017 where a young boy hailing from Ghizer committed suicide as he was unable to fulfill his parents’ expectations of having good grades in matric examinations. Another case of a young girl’s suicide was reported from Hunza where the parents allegedly asked her to discontinue education for one year as her brother got admission in same year.
We have stopped teaching our children to embrace failure, struggle against hardships and stay candid in harshest circumstances. We need to redevise and redefine our ways of nurturing youngsters. Moreover, our parents try their best to fulfill our all wishes without mentioning the hardships they face. However, we start to live in the world of utopia; where everything is just perfect. Our wishes are fulfilled in a blink of eye and we don’t bother to think about what’s going around us. And when the utopian world turns into dystopian world, we think that our life is finished because it’s no more oriented. In this case instead of handling the issue we opt to commit suicide.
Ms. Sajida Shah Gender Rights Activist Training and Advocacy Coordinator Aahung, Karachi Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com