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Women's suicide rate in Gujarat, two other states rises, as India's goes down by 23%: Wither UN's SDG targets?

By Rajiv Shah
In an important revelation, a recent study in one of the world’s most renowned health research journals, “Lancet”, has found that “model” Gujarat is one of the three states where the Suicide Death Rate (SDR) among women has gone up. The other two major states, whose women’s SDR has shown an upward trend during the 26-years study – 1990 to 2016 – period are Bihar and Rajasthan.
Pointing out that between 1990 and 2016 women’s SDR has increased by 4.1%, the data in the journal show that crude SDR for women in Gujarat 1990 was 15.4 per 100,000, which reached 16.0 per 100,000. The data is significant, because all other states but these three witnessed a sharp fall in women’s SDR.
What is equally significant is that, women’s all-India SDR stood at 19.4 per 100,000 in 1990, which was above that of Gujarat. However, in 2016, things turned topsy-turvy: The all-India women’s SDR in 2016 was 14.9 per 100,000, much lower than that of Gujarat, 16.0. Overall, India experienced a whopping fall of 23.5% in women's SDR during the period under study, as against 4.1% rise of India.
Importantly, there are only major five states whose women’s SDR is found to be higher that of Gujarat – these are Tamil Nadu 26.9, West Bengal 22.1, Karnataka 25.1, Andhra Pradesh 21.0, and Telangana 19.8. The women’s SDR in these states remains high despite a fall experienced in the 26 years in each of these states, the data show.
Also, though in Bihar women’s SDR experienced a sharp rise of 13.5%, it continued to be way below that of Gujarat, just about 6.2 per 100,000 in 2016, up from 5.1 in 1990. Similarly, while Rajasthan’s women’s SDR rose by 10.4% during the period under study, its SDR for 2016 was way below that of Gujarat, 8.3, up from 7.6 in 1990.
The “Lancet” study, which has already created ripples across India, says that “suicide deaths in India increased from 164,404 in 1990 to 230,314 in 2016, an increase of 40.1%”, adding, “In 2016, India had 1,316 million (17.8%) of the global population, but its contribution to suicides increased to 94 380 (36.6%) of the 257,624 global suicide deaths among women and 135,934 (24.3%) of the 559,523 global suicide deaths among men.”
Pointing out that “the levels of urbanisation, proportion of literate population, and difference in literacy attainment between men and women have been suggested as reasons for the variations in suicide deaths at the state level in India”, the study says, “The nearly three times higher SDR observed in women in India as compared with the rate expected globally for geographies at similar levels of Socio-Demographic Index highlights the particular need to better understand the determinants of suicides among women in India.”
Probability of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2030 targets in reducing suicides
It underlines, “Married women account for the highest proportion of suicide deaths among women in India. Marriage is known to be less protective against suicide for women because of arranged and early marriage, young motherhood, low social status, domestic violence, and economic dependence”.
Stating that “India accounted for one-third of the global child marriages in 2014”, the study says, “One pronounced finding is that despite a reduction in SDR between 1990 and 2016 in younger women, the SDR among them continues to remain high. Recently, high suicide deaths in adolescent girls have gained attention, with suicides having surpassed maternal mortality as the leading cause of death globally.”
Insisting that “disproportionately high suicide deaths in India are a public health crisis”, the study regrets, India’s policy makers have done “very little thus far for suicide prevention in India, and the projections for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030 target are dismal, with the majority of the states having less than 10% probability of reaching the SDG target.”

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