AFGHANISTAN. Herat: Every year the rate of women committing suicide is rising in Afghanistan. In most suicide cases it is found that women end their lives by either swallowing rat poison, burning, or hanging themselves, Arif Jalali, the head doctor at Herat hospital said.
Last year, Herat recorded the highest number of suicide cases in Afghanistan with 2,000 cases on the peak, which according to health officials 70 percent of suicide attempts are women and just 30 percent are men. The numbers decreased this year due to COVID-19 restrictions and the inaccessibility of government in remote areas.
Fatima (anonymous), 23, is one of the women who has just been discharged from Herat hospital. Last month, she tried to commit suicide by overdosing herself with nerve doses.
She says her parent forced her to someone she didn’t like. “My family wanted me to marry the grandson of my uncle. I didn’t agree, but they already accepted the marriage proposal without my consent.”
“No one stood with me,” she said. After going through immense emotional trauma, she decided to end her life.
Based on Herat hospital statistics, three to eight, and sometimes 13 cases of suicide are recorded daily in Herat hospital. Most of the people are between 15 to 25 years old.
“If we don’t have any cases from remote areas, that is not good news. I mean, their families never report or bring the women to Herat hospital,” Mr. Barez, a doctor at the hospital said.
Rising cases of domestic violence
Halima (anonymous) is another woman who survived her first suicide attempt after her husband’s family admitted her to the hospital. She said it’s been over 11 years since she had been married, but she is beaten and mistreated every day by her husband.
Halima is a mother of three children. While talking about her ordeal, she said ” I have lost two of my babies because my husband beat and punched me during my pregnancy.”
Meanwhile, when her husband was asked about the reason behind the suicide attempt, he said that his wife has mental problems. Halima told Transcontinental Times that her husband constantly beats her for the retaliation on dowry he had paid for her family.
In Afghan law, a man who decides to marry a woman should first pay a traditional-agreed amount of money for her dowry (Mahr).
The dowry is the woman’s separate property (In Afghanistan parents use the money to support their daughter’s wedding and expenses). The man should pay a woman’s parents in return for the right to marry their daughter.
Marriage practices in Afghanistan
Atiha Elahi, the head of women’s rights inspection in western Afghanistan believes that forced marriages٫ family issues, old traditions, higher dowries, and poverty, are the key factors that force women to commit suicide.
“Most of the women who commit suicide want to scare their families and husband. Old traditions hinder women to own their rights, like forced-marriages that some can’t tolerate marrying someone they don’t like. This leaves no door-way for girls but to end their lives,” she said.
Maryam Hussaini, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said 99 percent of girls in Herat can’t choose their life partners. “It is a shame on a family if their daughter says I want to marry that one(a particular man she loves). Relatives and family will convict her of having a previous relationship with the man. It’s a dishonor to the entire family and relatives,” she said. She added that most girls stay quiet to prevent the “dishonor” that it brings to their family in Herat.
“Girls can’t speak for their rights because of family and society pressures. So suicide is the last option.”
Amina Asna, a women activist, from Herat says, “Nowadays girls can’t tolerate abusive attitudes and mistreatment from family and husband.” They reach to a point where death is a celebration for the pain,” she said.
Over the past one year, Afghan city, Herat has recorded 1,750 suicide cases in the province, according to Herat health officials. 1,303 of these cases are women and only 447 are men.
Herat Women’s Affairs Department calls for its planned efforts to raise awareness among families. “Based on surveys our office conducted, most women are suffering from mental issues, and depressions, which come from the conservative life in Afghanistan. They find committing-suicide as a relief,” the office said.
Four decades of war in Afghanistan took a devastating turn for women, besides other segments of society. Some observers say the mental fatalities are higher than the daily numbers of deaths.