In a series of events, three young women committed suicide in 48 hours in Kerala. This happened on June 21-22. The women have left behind notes which points to ‘dowry harassment’ being a reason. The young women choosing death over life has shocked the entire nation. Such incidences have also taken place in the past.
It is more shocking as Kerala has the highest literacy rate for women. Dowry harassment and physical, mental torture forced them to take the extreme step. The series of suicides has triggered a heated debate in Kerala. Hence, it has shown the gender insensitivity prevalent in the state.
Women Empowerment in Kerala
Left-liberal Kerala claims to have the highest female literacy. This is around 95.2% which is the highest in the country. Also, the state has produced astonishing women leaders in many fields. These women include Tessy Thomas, the director-general of aeronautical systems at DRDO. She was the first woman to head the country’s missile project. K.K. Shailaja Teacher- a high school teacher turned political leader. She won global acclaim as health minister for her efforts during the pandemic and before. Furthermore, they have empowered women including Captain Lakshmi, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Mary Roy, K.R. Gouriamma, Anna Chandy, Justice Fathima Beevi, P.T Usha, and several others. These women, in their time, emerged as role models for women’s empowerment and reserved a place in history.
Young Women Choosing Death Over Life- The Parallel World
However, to our misfortune, now Kerala is back to debating the plight of its daughters. On June 21, 22-year-old Vismaya V. Nair, an Ayurveda BAMS student- found hanging at her husband’s home in Sasthamkotta in Kollam district. Before her death, Vismaya had shared WhatsApp messages with her relatives alleging torture by her husband Kiran. He is a motor vehicle inspector in the transport department. Interestingly, the couple got married last May. Her father Thrivikraman is a local the Communist Party of India leader. He had gifted the groom a new car worth Rs 10 lakh, 1.25 acres of land, and 100 sovereigns gold as dowry.
The bride’s family complained to the police and Kiran was arrested on June 24. Now, the post-mortem report has stated that Vismaya died due to hanging. However, it is still not confirmed whether it was a case of suicide or murder. Looking at the intensity of the situation, the government has constituted a high-level police team headed by Inspector General Harshita Attalluri to conduct the probe.
Another similar incident took place just 24 hours later.
Here, another 24-year-old, Archana, was allegedly set ablaze by her husband in Vizhinjam. This happened in the adjoining Thiruvananthapuram district. This couple too had married in 2020. Here as well, the girl’s family has alleged dowry-related torture by the husband.
The third incident took place on June 22. Suchithra Vishnu, a 19-year-old married to an army havildar posted in Uttarakhand, was found hanging at her in-laws’ home. Her family too has put forward allegations of dowry-related torture.
The series of suicides by young housewives has exposed the dark side of Kerala society. The treatment of women as second-class citizens while making the right noises in public about women’s liberation and empowerment. The hypocritical behavior is no more hidden. The reflection of a similar theme is evident in the cultural scene too. In Malayalam movies, and fiction. Even spiritual leaders celebrate women as role models, but only as long as they are confined to the four walls of their homes, caring for their kids, in-laws, and husbands.
On 22nd June, CM Pinarayi Vijayan announced to start gender-sensitive lessons from Primary school. Also, a new helpline, ‘Aparajita’ started. This is to record complaints of Domestic violence and dowry harassment. However, the lives lost at the cost of the misogynist society can never be compensated!