Social stigma over rape triggers suicide trends among family members

By ZRG | Updated: Apr 25, 2013, 16:56 PM IST

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/Zee Research Group

Unable to bear social rejection over the rape of their daughter, two members of a family committed suicide on April 23 in Hissar district of Haryana while three others in the family were critical following their attempt to commit suicide.

This particular case of social rejection amounting to mass suicide may be heart wrenching but it is not the only one of its kind.

Majority of suicide victims in India end their lives due to reputation issues rather than either loss of money or failing health. Experts indicate social rejection as one of the key factors reinforcing suicidal tendencies. The official crime records data too endorses the trend.

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), almost 40 per cent of people killed themselves in 2011 fearing loss of reputation caused by physical abuse (rape and incest), impotency, and illicit relationship etc.

Commenting on the fear of social rejection that leads one to commit suicide, Dr Sameer Malhotra, the head of mental health department at Max Hospital said, “Social rejection leads to impulsive disorder, one of the major causes of suicide. A person fearing social rejection has a higher tendency to commit suicide because it is not easy for a person to cope up with the inflating level of stress alone.”

Explaining the fact of social rejection, the Oxford handbook of social exclusion says, “Interpersonal processes involved in depression, such as self-verification striving, excessive reassurance-seeking, blame maintenance, and stress generation cause rejection and are key factors in the maintenance and recurrence of depressive symptoms. Rejection is also associated with increased risk of suicide. In particular, social isolation and family discord are associated with elevated risk of suicide.”

The overall data on causes of suicides by NCRB further suggests that 19.59 per cent commit suicide due to health reasons and merely 6.77 per cent kill themselves due to financial losses.

Surprisingly, during 2011 more men in comparison to women committed suicide when their image was defamed socially.