South Asian nations

I dislike the “GDP wars” that sometimes crop up on this message board. Comparing India to Bangladesh or Pakistan is apples to oranges. India is economically a collection of nations, and the average can be misleading. That being said, a lot of the Indian commentators also seem to engage in a lot of cope when it comes to GDP comparisons between Bangladesh and India; on the whole I often agree with them…but the fact that there can be a comparison despite India having relatively dynamic economies in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and around Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad, should lead to some soul-searching about inter-regional inequalities, rather than arguing about statistics.

But, as a biologist I like looking at health indicators. Harder to fake (thought not impossible), and clearer in interpretation.

First, let’s be honest: Pakistan is now the “slow kid” in the subcontinent. Mind you, many South Asians will admit that they are more handsome people because they are taller and lighter skinned (let’s be frank here), the advantages Pakistan accrued through its Cold War alliance with the US and less strident adherence to socialism than India have been frittered away. Anytime India sees itself clustering with Pakistan, it has to wonder “what are we doing wrong???” (again, the story in India is inter-regional variation). Despite over a generation of war and strife, Sri Lanka still had a lead in these indices, but the other nations are catching up. Finally, Bangladesh’s status is a basket case still shadows some of the numbers, like the number of physicians per thousand and age at teen births and motherhood. All that being said, what’s the good of having physicians if your life expectancy isn’t that great?

Land of Devis and Ma-Jananis

There are few things that trigger me more into blood-pumping fury than when somebody claims how superior South Asian culture is in respecting women and blah blah family values. By South Asia, I mean India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. I do not want to take space venting my fury here because I primarily want to post the following Guardian article. However, I must write a few lines.

These words need not be said because they are generally well understood by all knowledgable people. South Asia has the world’s worst reputation of treating women. It has worst reputation of violence to women, disrespect to women, sexual objectification of women and just every-day, every hour awkward behaavior to women. It has such bad reputation that whenever a foreign girl, white, black, East Asian, latina, expresses interest in visiting South Asia, all South Asian friends immediately discourage her. Female stewards in international flights specially watch out for South Asian men for perverted behavior. And so on and on. In sum, South Asia has the shittiest culture for women. We can debate till cows come home whether Islam, Hinduism, Muslim occupation, British colonialism etc are to blame for this but there is no escaping what it is now.

Finally South Asia is home to the world’s largest industry of making utterly fake paens, hommages to women. Cue a Karan Zohar movie theme.

Nearly 40% of female suicides occur in India

Study indicates early marriage, male violence and patriarchal culture are to blame

Nearly two in every five women in the world who kill themselves are Indian, according to a Lancet study published this week that says the country’s suicides rates constitute a public health crisis.

The rate of Indian women who die by suicide has fallen since 1990, but not as fast as elsewhere in the world, and now represents 36.6% of global female suicide deaths, the report in the UK medical journal found.

Indian women who died by suicide were more likely to be married, to be from more developed states and, by a large margin, aged below 35.

“It shows girls in India are in serious trouble,” said Poonam Muttreja, the executive director of the Population Foundation of India, a public health group.

She and other specialists blamed the trend on early marriage – one-fifth of Indian women still marry before the age of 15 – along with male violence against women and other symptoms of a deeply entrenched patriarchal culture.

The suicide rate among Indian women was three times higher than what might be predicted for a country with similar geography and socio-economic indicators, the researchers said.

“Our social norms are very regressive,” Muttreja said. “In the village, a girl is called her father’s daughter, then she is her husband’s wife, and when she has a son, she is her son’s mother.”

Muttreja said research carried out by her organisation had shown that 62% of surveyed women believed it was legitimate for their husbands to beat them.

The researchers speculated the link between suicide and marriage was due to the burdens of youth motherhood, the low social status afforded to wives in some households, the lack of financial independence and exposure to domestic violence.

“The disproportionately high suicide deaths in India are a public health crisis,” the authors, who are mostly affiliated with Indian public health research groups, said.

Around one in four men in the world who die by suicide are Indian, roughly the same proportion as in 1990, the study said.

Suicide was also the leading cause of death for young people of both genders but was worse for women.

The study noted that suicide had recently been decriminalised, so there was a possibility the true rate could be even higher but hidden by families and doctors for fear of stigma or police interference.




Brown Pundits