Rising suicide rate continues to haunt Chitral
Women appear to be more vulnerable than men due to domestic issues
The suicide rate in Chitral has been on the rise for the past few years, especially in women. To control the incidents of suicide among women, a special police desk has been set up where women now come without any hesitation.
Naghma Pari is a 21-year-old girl hailing from a small village in Lower Chitral who tried to become one more instance of people succumbing to their economic miseries.
Pari, the third of five siblings, was forced to marry at the young age of 13 due to destitution. Her childhood was an impoverished life spent in a mud house at the foot of the mountains, collecting firewood and walking more than two kilometers from home to get water.
Like her family, Pari’s husband was also not financially stable at the time of marriage and worked as a laborer to make ends meet. In their seven years of marriage, Pari became the mother of two children, which added to their economic burden. She faced daily domestic disputes due to living in abject poverty fearing an even miserable future. In addition to economic turmoil, Pari was displeased with her husband’s older age.
In the first week of June, fed up with her deteriorating domestic situation, Pari gulped fumigation tablets, meant to protect wheat from the weevils, to take her life. Upon report, her neighbors rushed to the scene immediately and shifted her to DHQ hospital in Chitral. Owing to timely medical treatment Pari got a new lease of life.
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According to documents obtained by The Express Tribune, there have been 63 cases of suicide registered in the police stations under the limits of Lower Chitral district during the past five years. The suicide rate of women was 54 per cent and that of men was 46 per cent. Poor mental health is the leading cause of suicides. As per reports, 46 per cent of the 63 suicides over a five-year period were caused due to stress and various mental illnesses, followed by domestic violence at 23 per cent.
After the incident, Chitral police’s women desk team contacted Pari’s family and paid close attention to Pari helping her return to a better life.
“I didn’t believe I would be able to survive,” Pari said, “I never thought that anyone would care about the poor and helpless people.”
ASI Dilshad Pari of Chitral Police, in-charge of the women’s desk, told The Express Tribune that earlier women were afraid to come to the police stations as they were shy in dealing with men.
“Now, if a woman needs legal help or has a problem with her property and cannot hire a lawyer, we resolve the problem by holding a jirga at the desk here,” she said, adding that during the last 6 months, the desk has received 176 cases of disputes including divorce, sexual violence, share in inheritance, fake marriages and physical violence.
Sonia Shamrooz, the first female district police officer of Lower Chitral, told The Express Tribune that the domestic problems of women in the district of Lower Chitral, having a population of 278,000, were increasing daily. With the special support desks, women no longer hesitate to speak out against any oppression or tyranny resulting in a dramatic reduction in suicides from January to June this year as only six incidents of suicide have been reported.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Naghma Pari maintained that the women’s desk team is a support organization in Chitral and provides all kinds of protection and guidance that not only prevented her husband from abusing her but also provided her with information on the legal and fundamental rights of women in question.
“Despite the people of Chitral being peaceful even today in some villages women are forced to take extreme measures due to old customs. Efforts of women police in Chitral have helped many families in fleeing despondency and suicide,” Pari told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2021.