A couple in the northeastern district of Faisalabad in Pakistan ended their lives just as the woman was about to marry another man whom her parents had chosen for her.
The couple, identified by police only as Muqaddas and Adnan, were found in critical condition on Sunday after they ingested poison. They were rushed to a hospital where they were declared dead on arrival. The incident took place as celebrations for Muqaddas’ wedding were underway, shortly before the arrival of the groom and his family.
According to police, Muqaddas and Adnan had been in love and were hoping to marry each other, but Muqaddas’ parents rejected the match and fixed her marriage to a suitor of their choice.
In traditional Pakistani culture, arranged marriages between couples are commonplace. Some families fix marriages between couples based on factors such as class, ethnicity, religion and socio-economic status. However, shifting patterns of education and media exposure in urban and rural settings have led to young people increasingly wanting to choose their own partners.
Despite this, many are still forced to fulfill familial obligations and continue to follow traditional marriage practices. According to a 2019 Gallup Pakistan survey, 85 percent of Pakistanis reported to have met their spouse through arranged marriage, while just 5 percent reported to have married for love.
“Marriages should require emotional compatibility, which is a very basic thing that is everyone's right. The couple should first and foremost like each other,” Islamabad-based psychiatrist Abdul Wahab Yousafzai told VICE World News. “You will prominently find that marriage in our society is itself a risk factor for poor mental health.”
In 2016, a similar case occurred in which a young couple ended their lives by ingesting poison in the city of Sargodha, after their union was rejected by their parents. In 2017, in the city of Gujranwala, a young unmarried couple jumped in front of a moving train.
According to Yousafzai, fictional stories such as Romeo and Juliet and similar Pakistani folk stories such as Heer Ranjha coupled with sensationalised and simplistic media coverage of suicide can increase vulnerability among young, impressionable people.
“Attributing suicide to just love affairs and fairy tales is indirect glamourisation. When people are constantly exposed to news reports that state things like ‘so-and-so left this world after being spurned in their love affair’ – this can be very dangerous,” said Yousafzai.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, prolonged lockdowns, increasing unemployment and financial hardships have been linked to rising suicide rates in Pakistan. In 2020, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan documented 1,735 deaths by suicide, out of which 1,086 were men and 649 were women. Many cases, however, escape detection as the country does not have an official suicide registry.
Suicide remains a crime in the country. People who survive suicide attempts may be punished with fines and, possibly, imprisonment.
“Over time, poor mental health, minimal coping strategies, indidvidual personality factors and social difficulties culminate, which can eventually lead people to becoming more vulnerable to death by suicide,” said Yousafzai.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available. Call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone now or text START to 741741 to message with the Crisis Text Line.
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