Raising Trends of Suicides in Gilgit-Baltistan

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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.

656390ee3d62dea05e069331b5896f23According 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.

15_02_339591840child-in-depration-llIt 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 belonging 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.

Suicide-2-644x362_0We have stopped teaching our children to embrace failure, struggle against hardships and stay candid in harshest circumstances. We need to re-devise 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 world of utopia turns into the world of dystopia, 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.

Some participants labeled suicide as “institutionalized murders”. According to them a newborn is raised by five social institutions i.e. Family, Education, Economics, Politics and Religion. These institutions are responsible for everything happens with an individual. We can’t analyze issues like suicide in isolation to these institutions. Anyone who commits suicides loses his/her sense of belonging to all of these institutions, which implies that suicides are society’s collective failure.

gender-based-descriminationGender-based discrimination was also highlighted as one of the core reasons for the highest number of women among those committed suicide. According to the participants one of the main reasons for young women to commit suicide is the social restrictions on them to enjoy their lives with liberty. Moreover, a sense of “partial freedom” in few regions leads to frustration among women. Partial freedom was explained as giving women opportunities to avail education but restricting their choices of career, employment and life partner.

Majority of the participants shared and agreed that most of the times, people kill women in the name of honor and report the incidents as a suicide attempts. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also agrees to the fact that about 10% of all reported cases of suicides in Gilgit-Baltistan are cases of honor killing. Recently in September 2018, a woman was allegedly killed by her husband and in-laws and thrown into Ghizer River and reported that the women had committed suicide.

160711141656-02-kashmir-unrest-exlarge-169Some participants claimed that suicide has a very close association with state oppression and colonization. To justify their opinion, they referred the famous Algerian Psychologist turned activist Frantz Fanon who has quoted number of cases from his clinic during the French colonization in Algeria. Modern nation state plays the role of classical conservative family institution, creating opinion and choices contrary to the interest of the citizens. The state oppression in colonized areas like ours has a sub-conscious impact mainly on the young people who aim for liberty, free will and free choice.

Participants from this focus group discussion dissected possible solutions for the prevention of suicides into short term and long term solutions.

It was shared by the participants that suicide prevention awareness is very important in the short term phase. Parents, teachers and young people need to know human limitations besides being un-realistically ambitious. We need to tell our children that competitions are sometimes healthy but not always. Competitions enhance individualist approaches where failure develops serious mental and psychological threats. Our teachers and parents need to be educated on this too.

COunselling-3Frequent counselling sessions with vulnerable groups is the need of time. Every village, school and district should have suicide prevention committees comprising of learned and flexible people from all stakeholders (i.e. parents, teachers and young people). Guardians need to be educated on understanding suicide signs. Every potential victim of suicides initially goes through suicidal ideation and always shows suicide signs that need to be understood and catered timely.

Gender discrimination need to be ended in family units. Women need to be given equal chances of liberty and choice like men. Measures should be taken to prevent domestic violence. Families should be educated on the essence of close discussions and listening to the concerns of the children. A progressive private sector and civil society needs to be established and strengthened to act on the short term goals.  

Long term solutions are always multi-sectoral. All social institutions (family, economics, education, politics and religion) need radical reformation in terms of progressive curriculum, enough employment, affordable shelter and people friendly policies (legislature). Collectivist approach needs to be propagated instead of individualism. Class system needs to be abrogated as it has induced inferiority complex among young boys and girls and has also engaged them in a false competition. Since, the state holds the pivotal role in ensuring this multi-sectoral approach to prevent suicides, we all need to contribute in struggles to make the state policies more progressive and human friendly.

 

Written by Ms. Sajida Shah
Gender Rights Activist

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Women In Pakistan Dared To March — And Didn’t Care What Men Thought

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We were hundreds of women, marching on the streets of Karachi, Pakistan.

We shouted slogans. ‘”Aurat aiee, aurat aiee, tharki teri shaamath aiee!” (Women are here, harassers must fear!)

We raised our fists in the air, smiling, laughing.

We wore what we wanted to wear: burqas, jeans and designer shades, brightly embroidered skirts, the traditional tunic and baggy trousers called shalwar kameez.

Men gaped, shook their heads, filmed us from passing cars as we walked by, disrupting traffic.

We did not care what the men thought of us.

We were free to stand, walk, dance, with nobody to tell us to sit down, be quiet, be good.

It was the first time in my life that I saw women gathering in public, in strength, in numbers.

This was the Aurat (Urdu for “women”) March, the first of its kind in the conservative Muslim country of Pakistan. There were actually three marches — in Karachi, Lahore

and Islamabad – all held on March 8, International Women’s Day.

Word spread through Facebook and Twitter posts among the various networks of women involved in grassroots work — in education, health, microfinance, women’s shelters, workers’ rights.

Objectives were ambitious: a demand for the recognition of women’s rights and gender equality, and an end to the hideous scourge of gender violence, among other aims.

But the overriding intent was to raise the morale of Pakistani women. The constant drip of misogyny can turn life into a misery, where you are considered a lucky woman if you have a husband who doesn’t beat you. The Aurat March wanted to remind women that the bar doesn’t need to be set that low.

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Before the march began, activists took to the stage and spoke of their struggles and triumphs. Veeru Kohli, a member of the Dalit community in the Thar Desert (low-caste Hindus known by the epithet of “untouchables”) related how she escaped a life of slave labor to become a political activist. Kainat Soomro, a victim of gang rape at 13 who is trying to take her rapists to court, described her as yet unsuccessful 11-year fight for justice. An activist from the Christian community excoriated the government for ignoring the scourge of forced conversions, where Muslim men kidnap minority women, force them to convert to Islam and marry them against their consent.

The March brought together women across class, ethnic, and religious lines. University students cheered on older feminist icons. Placards in English and Urdu read “Patriarchy is Fitna (sedition)”, “Kebab Rolls not Gender Roles”, “Woman is King” and “Stop Killing Women.” Children waved orange and yellow flags with the Aurat March logo, and 97-year-old folk singer Mai Dhai sang and banged enthusiastically on a dhol, the traditional Pakistani drum played at weddings, stirring women and men to dance together in a spirit of festivity and celebration.

For the first time, I felt as though the invisible ties that held me back, those hundreds of written and unwritten rules about Pakistani women’s behavior in public, had been cut through with a blowtorch.

A small group of trans women watched from the edges, nervous and scared, but they soon joined in, along with the procession of nuns bearing giant crosses and the Dalit women from the desert. We marched behind women in red, members of the working women’s union, bussed in from Hyderabad. We marched, hair bare or covered, to the beat of the drums and the pounding of our hearts.

We were accompanied by women on motorcycles, girls on pink bikes. Tens of men and boys joined us. We walked next to women wearing masks portraying the face of Qandeel Baloch, the social media star who was murdered by her brother two years ago because he could not stand her bold, risqué public persona. They bore a symbolic coffin containing a body shrouded in white, calling it “patriarchy’s funeral.”

It’s been three decades since members of the Women’s Action Forum were beaten on the streets for protesting the Islamization laws of dictator General Zia in the early 1980s. Pakistani women in 2018 still find themselves trampled under decades of discrimination and oppression. But the Aurat March has motivated them to demand equality and justice. The Aurat March has uncovered an undeniable truth: The revolution has arrived in Pakistan — and it is a women’s revolution.

Source: Bina Shah

Bina Shah is a writer living in Karachi, Pakistan. Her forthcoming novel, Before She Sleeps, a feminist dystopian story about women’s lives in a future Middle Eastern society, will be published in August 2018. She tweets @binashah

Sanity and suicide

Aziz-Ali-Dad

Aziz Ali Dad

The society of Gilgit-Baltistan is on the cusp of change. It is under the influence of various forces, which are both internal and external, and a complex interplay of continuity and change. The result is the formation of new ways of seeing things, lifestyle and changes in values and the emergence of new notions of the self, sense and sensibilities.

In this process, the youth of Gilgit have become both beneficiaries and victims of modernity. One of the benefits of change is that some regions of Gilgit have achieved a phenomenal increase in literacy. However, the seamy side of change tends to appear if we examine the increasing trend of suicide in various parts of the region.

During May 2017, 10 cases of suicides in the Ghizer district were recorded by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan Chapter. In all these cases, the victims were young. There is a general perception that the suicide rate is high in Ghizer Valley while the rest of the region is immune to it. Various cases of suicide have surfaced in all areas of the Gilgit-Baltistan. However, a majority of these cases are not reported. The complete blackout of reports related to suicide and honour killing clearly shows that some parts of Gilgit-Baltistan are still in the grips of a tribal and patriarchal ethos where anything related to women is brushed under the carpet to keep the veneer of men’s honour intact from the onslaught of change brought about by modernisation.

Despite the stranglehold of the patriarchal mind on every sphere of life, suicide cases are a sign of the failure of cultural, religious, social and institutional arrangements in Gilgit. To probe the underlying causes of suicide, it is indispensable to take stock of the situation by situating the individual within the society of Gilgit and identify the factors that form his or her existential reality. It is this lifeworld that begets a mind that decides whether to live or commit suicide.

An important factor in Gilgit is the rapid transformation in every sphere of life.

Unlike the previous generation, the new generation of Gilgit is continuously exposed to novel situations and experiences because of social transformation. Therefore, the youth seek to explore other dimensions of life for self-actualisation. However, the traditional mindset and leadership are still stuck in the traditional worldview. They insist on sticking to the values, institutional structures and ideals that do not understand the emerging reality in the communication age. In other words, the aspirations and ideals of youth exceed the available capacities of social and religious institutions and values. As a result, a new sense of alienation has settled into the hearts and minds of the youth.

When a person feels absolute alienation from their family, religion, social institutions and values, he or she experiences crisis of meaning and metaphysical pathos. As a result, he or she opts for suicide. So, the act of suicide can be seen as an assertion of one’s identity against the collective ethos of society.

Unfortunately, the remedies suggested to tackle the increasing cases of suicide in Gilgit are a nonstarter. This is because the very causes are presented as a panacea for the young mind that suffers from it and wants to transcend the suffocating culture and society. For example, a section of society thinks that suicide cases are occurring because of the weaning away of the youth from religion. Proponents of this arguments claim that religion provides social cohesion whereby the individual relates to the collective identity and achieves what is called existential security of the self. This argument has affinity with the theory propounded by Emile Durkheim in his landmark book ‘Suicide’ where he propounds the view that suicide is prevalent among groups with weak forms of social control and cohesion.

However, the reality is that suicide in Gilgit is the result of a closely-knit society where the youth feels suffocated. If individuals aspire to transcend kinship-based solidarities or the prevalent ethos and ideals, they invite invisible nooses around their necks to strangle themselves. Interestingly, Durkheim finds fewer incidents of suicide among women. On the contrary, the suicide rate among women is high in parts of Gilgit.

One of the major challenges during the period of rapid transition is the disappearance of old ideals and the absence of new ideals in society of Gilgit. That is why society and its members operate within an ideological vacuum. Such a society is bound to feel the existential hole in its core and a lose sense of direction as it does not have an idea of going forward, backward, upward and downward.

With the growing exposure to global ideas, lifestyle and ideals, the youth of Gilgit begin to aspire to a lifestyle which their society does not provide spaces and opportunities for. Instead of heeding to the aspiration of the youth, the ideological guardians of society not only repress dreams but also stifle any form of transcendence to fit them in received ideals and realities. Consequently, the possibilities of diverse dimensions are reduced to create a one-dimensional self. R D Laing, in his book ‘The Divided Self’, writes: “Among one-dimensional men, it is not surprising that someone with an insistent experience of other dimensions, that he cannot entirely deny or forget, will run the risk either of being destroyed by the others, or of betraying what he knows”.

Unfortunately, the intelligentsia of Gilgit-Baltistan conjures up the same ideals of society, which are meant to create a one-dimensional self. This is done through an array of structures, which are institutional, religious and cultural. Amid this arrangement, the strangulated self finds no space and new groups with whom an individual can find existential affinity. In the end, the individual takes refuge in death by committing suicide.

Jan Ali, a populist Shina poet, pithily sums up the suffocating environment of Gilgit and its role in generating a death wish in the individual in the couplet when he exclaims” “Aday bay bayokijo meerok ga mishti, Gileet ga phat kon nayok gi mishti (Instead of leading such life, it is better to either commit suicide, or vanish from Gilgit)”

The aspirations and dreams of the youth in Gilgit are either destroyed by the existing order of things, or deviated from to conform to the uni-dimensional idea of the self dictated by society. Hence, we witness the suppression of the individual by society to keep the sanity of the collective whole intact. It is to members of such society that Carl Jung said: “Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you”. Gilgit’s society is in denial of the insanity of its social, cultural, religious and institutional structures. Instead of curing its version of collective sanity, society blames the individual agency of insanity for suicide.

From the above discussion, it can be concluded that the self of the youth in Gilgit is walking on a tight rope over the abyss. It is a dangerous walk as looking backward may distract the person from what is ahead and consign him or her to the pits of abyss. In addition, people cannot make an abode of the self in a precious place. All they need is to leave the traditions behind and cross over the present for the sake of their dreams and aspirations.

Only by getting rid of approaches that either see things in terms of pre-modern social arrangements or a reengagement with lost certainties of culture and religion and rejecting the status quo, can we create a new self in Gilgit. This will open the doors to new dreams and ecstasies for the self to celebrate. It will help the individual get rid of the normalcy imposed by society and jettison the false realities inculcated in the individual by culture, society, state and religion.

R D Laing’s observation is quite relevant to Gilgit, especially when he wrote: “Thus I would wish to emphasize that our ‘normal’ ‘adjusted’ state is too often the abdication of ecstasy, the betrayal of our true potentialities, that many of us are only too successful in acquiring a false self to adapt to false realities”.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Gilgit. Email: azizalidad@gmail.com

Source: Pamir Times

Girl Raped For 43,200 times

An innocent girl was forced into human trafficking industry of Mexico. Now she speaks about her agony and the brutal acts she had to go through.

Meet the brave girl, Karla Jacinto (23). She believes that she has been raped for almost 43,200 times. She was forced to have sex with at least 30 men every day continuously for four years, CNN reports.

After getting out of that hell, she shared the story of her survival via press conferences, public events etc. She also spoke to the Pope Francis at the Vatican and urged to the US Congress to prevent other young girls who might be dragged away from their loved ones.

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Ms. Karla Jacinto.

A 22-year-old trafficker targetted Karla when she was just 12. He took her away from her family in Tenancingo. Tenancingo, Mexico, widely considered as the sex trafficking capital of the world and is the single largest source of sex slaves sent to the US, according to the US State Department. In an interview with CNN, Karla told that she stayed with her trafficker for three months, after which she was transported to Guadalajara (One of the nation’s largest cities) before being dragged into prostitution. She said, “I started at 10 am and finished at midnight. Some men would laugh at me because I was crying. I had to close my eyes so that that I wouldn’t see what they were doing to me so that I wouldn’t feel anything.”

 

Story Teller,

Manjiri Ghatge

 

 

 

 

The Hungry Eyes

111Every day, every hour, every second women are being harassed by men in this society. There are many types of Harassment but the most common and irritating one is STARING. This shameful act is being normalized by our society in the form of patriarchal freedom. It is clear enough to understand the root cause of this rising issue, which is Patriarchal society. This male dominant society has introduced a culture of Gender based discrimination. Moreover, women are considered as subordinates of men and the power only belongs to men. This discriminated culture has distributed the rights of freedom inequitably.

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Thus, men are enjoying extra freedom than women. Unfortunately, the misuse of the freedom is considered as an honor of a brave man. If a man stares women, he is considered as a daring man. If a boy is flirting a girl, he is considered to be very smart and it is an honor for him. If a man is enjoying multiple relationships, he is considered very cleaver. These all boost up the confidence of man to cross the limits. Being a girl, I am experiencing this harassment on daily basis. It is really difficult for me and other women to even cross a street alone or with anyone. These hungry eyes are ready to stop our way, to catch and to crush our dignity, our respect, our confidence, and our privacy.

Is this a social issue or psychological disorder/ perversion?

How this harassment can be minimized?

I am doing a survey on this harassment. Let’s be the part of this issue and sort it out together.

Both males and females can fill this survey form and add your contribution to eliminate one of the social issues.

To fill the Survey form please clicks here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1__XaIr52T-ntGahzGCCVVROXvUnvrUXjQTN4r2X8aeA/edit

First Step Towards “Students Against Sexual Violence”

imagesThe Harmony Theater starts the first step of

its campaign “Students Against Rap” with a

bilingual speech contest on the topics

related to sexual violence. the last date for

registrations is 11th September, 2015.

It has been observed that many young students showed interest in this contest,

therefore the management of Harmony Theater decided to organize auditions for

the selection of participants on 13th of September, 2015. Top 6 participants (3 for

English speech, 3 for Urdu speech) will be selected for the final contest which will

held on 20th September, 2015. Furthermore, winners of both English and Urdu

speech will receive cash prizes, shields and certificates.

Note: All participants of auditions will also receive participation certificate on the

last day of contest. 

Harmony Theater to present a campaign

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“Harmony Theater Group” to present a campaign  “Students Against Rape”. The Theater group is going to arrange Series of seminars, documentaries, plays etc for awareness regarding sexual & gender-based violence issues in  the society.

So, the first part of the series will be a Speech Contest on “Preponderance of Sexual Abuse”.

Be the part of Awareness!