Women and suicide
One ordinary spring day, a 20 year-old young lady from Baku went up on the roof of a high-rise building and jumped off it.
Later, when Bakuvians were discussing this case, it was said that the girl’s family had intended to forcefully marry her off, and that was the reason she committed a suicide. Though, family members and next of kin are unwilling to talk about that. In their opinion, the girl just had some psychological problems, not related to the marriage. Meanwhile, psychologists suspect that gender discrimination lies at the root of the psychological problems that resulted in the suicide.
A building where tragedy occurred on April 12, 2016
Poverty against equality
There are many governmental and non-governmental organizations in Azerbaijan that have been working for years towards reducing gender inequality. Some educational projects have been conceptualized and introduced, with even scientific studies having been conducted for that purpose. The strive towards equality has been also reflected in the national legislation.
In 1995, Azerbaijan ratified the Eradication of all Forms of Discrimination against Women from the UN Convention. In 2009, the Public Union for Gender Equality and Women’s Initiatives carried out an observation and prepared an alternative report on the implementation of this Convention’s policies in Azerbaijan.
As is pointed out in the report: “The studies have shown that gender stereotypes are so fundamentally rooted in the society that it is too early even to talk about equality between women and men. Gender stereotypes are still define socio-economic development processes. Even in the rare case that a woman tries to run for insignificant positions in the economic branch, her actions are inert.
This happens in the context of total poverty and miserable living conditions that are noted in the report:
“Most respondents believe that in conditions of extreme poverty, it is necessary, first and foremost, to solve daily material problems. Both men and women typically adhere to the norms and requirements of the traditional and patriarchal society, and this factor is an obstacle to even the most active of women.
Women do not support women
Vefa Akber , a psychologist, thinks that “if there violence against a woman in her family, the main reason is an insufficient amount of support from other woman in the family. If there is a girl in the family, her mother should be her best friend. But that’s not the case–there is a gap between the mother and the daughter.
“Where does this gap come from?- wonders Vefa Akber and answers the question herself:
“A mother constantly shows her superiority, a kind of dominance, thus demonstrating that she is older and that there should be subordination in the mother-daughter relationship, that a mother should be respected. In the end, this respect leads to worship.
Getting married at the age of 12?
Early marriages are one of the abhorrent violations of women’s rights in Azerbaijan. The Family Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan only acknowledges marriages on a voluntarily basis. Under the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the Rights of the Child, passed in 1998 (Article 1) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 1), ratified by Azerbaijan in 1992, “A child is any human being below the age of eighteen Hence, children cannot get married.
Nevertheless, there are still many cases of early religious marriages throughout the country. The NGOs working in this sphere claim that over 10,000 of these kinds of marriages have been registered in the country and their number increases from year to year. A particularly sharp growth has been reported in the southern regions of Azerbaijan – girls aged 12-16 often get married here. Such cases are more frequent in the Jalilabad and Masally districts. More often than not, these young brides are deprived not only of their childhood, but also of education. They usually pnly graduate from elementary school.
Has the conditions of women changed in the past 100 years?
An Azerbaijani community which is particularly strict and demanding towards the woman, has a historical pattern: before getting married, girls lived at their parents’ home, whereas having reached the age of marriage, they moved to their husbands’ home. As a result, historically, an Azerbaijani woman never had a life or possessions outside of the family and the marriage was the only source for her existence, since only marriage gave women the opportunity to get a house, property, social and economic protection, as well as the chance to have children.
The situation hasn’t significantly changed over the past 100 years. The Azerbaijani community is still reluctant to discuss these issues. A problem of early marriages is also a closed topic and even public discussions do not yield any noticeable results.
At present official statistics keeps count of marriages and divorces registered at the Civil Registry Office. Only this form of civil marriages have a legal basis. The forced married of underaged women is viewed as a crime with regard to all participants in the process, except the women themselves. All that gets in the way of early marriages being reported. Regrettably, this is a particularly serious issue in the regions. Not so long ago Aziz Elkhanoglu of Meydan-TV reported that another 14 year-old girl was betrothed in the Oghuz district of Azerbaijan.
The phenomenon of male supremacy
According to Shahla Ismail, the Chairperson of the Women’s Society for Rational Development, there is a phenomenon of “male supremacy in Azerbaijan.
“And this fact alone is a good reason for public concern. The attitude towards woman and female children also originates [from this phenomenon]. If we understand the root cause, we will see all the subsequent links of this sad chain.
In Shahla Ismail’s opinion, the issues in education problem and public responsibility, in general, represent the cause and effect of this situation.
“There are problems and barriers for women’s self-realization in the Azerbaijani society. This problem exists in both the political and economic spheres, as well as the social sphere. In our job we often face many negative phenomena, including suicide. Women resort to suicide when in utter despair, as a last resort, when all other means have been tried.
And the question is – why have all other options been tried? Why can’t a woman find any support in her family or from society or the state?
Bring someone to suicide is considered to be an offense by law. Under Article 125 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan, “Causing a person, materially, officially or otherwise dependent on the perpetrator, to commit a suicide or to attempt to commit suicide through threats, inhuman treatment or systematic insult of his/her personal dignity, is punishable by restriction of freedom for a term of up to 3 years or by deprivation of freedom with a sentence from 3 to 7 years.
The causes should be studied
Azad Isazade, a psychologist, who has been working at the Women’s Crisis Center for quite a long time, thinks that the youth and the elderly are more often inclined to suicides. These are the risk groups, and they need to be permanently studied: “The schools, parents and relevant institutions, including their respective ministries, should be provided with information and given recommendations. In short, there is a need for preventive measures.
However, there is no system of preventive measures:
“We are fighting only with the outcome. If a person attempting to commit suicide survives, we explain to him/her that this should not be done.
Azad Isazade pointed out that “suicide is not typical for people from the East. Therefore, the increase in the suicide rate in Azerbaijan is particularly alarming. In addition to studying problems within different age groups, it is also necessary to study the reasons for the suicides in both men and women.
“If we can’t identify the entire complex of reasons for it, the fight against this phenomenon won’t be effective.
Cover picture: Meydan-TV