Are men more vulnerable than women in India?

It has been often argued and believed that women are more vulnerable than men. However, the latest suicide figures pertaining to the year 2020 of National Crime Records Bureau tells a different story. The suicide cases of males are more than double than that of females. As per the data, there were 1,53,052 suicide deaths in the year 2020 which means 419 suicide deaths per day. Male suicide deaths consisted of 1,08,532 (70.91%) while female suicide deaths consisted of 44,498 (29.07%), and the balance of 22 suicide deaths consisted of transgenders.


Such huge suicide cases of men may be attributed to gender stereotype. There is a generalized view about attributes that are ought to be possessed by males and females. Men are perceived to be agentic (aggressive, strong, determined, competitive, intelligent etc.). On the other hand, females are perceived to be communal (caring, sensitive, honest, understanding, sympathetic etc.). When a man deviates from his gender stereotype, he faces backlash. This is one of the pivotal reasons why most men do not discuss their problems or sufferings with others to let go of the frustration or find a possible solution to the problem/suffering and ultimately end their lives leading to a higher number of suicide deaths.


National Crime Records Bureau also presents shocking suicide deaths figures pertaining to professional/career problems. Males happen to be more vulnerable than females in the workplace as per the suicide death figures. The total suicide deaths due to professional/career problems for the year 2020 were 1837 which implies 5 suicide deaths per day. Male suicide deaths consisted of 1602 (87.20%) while female suicide deaths consisted of 234 (12.74%) and the balance one suicidal death case pertains to transgender. Although, National Crime Records does not categorically mention the exact nature of professional/career problems; however, the professional/career problems may be attributed to Bullying and harassment at workplace irrespective of gender; Poor career growth; Sexual harassment particularly among women employees; non-performance etc.


While stringent laws are available to deal with sexual harassment against women in the workplace; sadly, there is hardly any law to deal with bullying and harassment at the workplace. There is no legal definition of bully and harassment in the workplace. However, researchers define workplace bullying as “Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient”. Bullying and harassment may be done either by a senior member in an organization to its junior member or by colleagues.


Men are also victims of gender stereotypes – e.g. unemployment. In our society, it is expected that men should work and earn livelihoods to support their families and parents. Thus, when he is unable to find suitable employment, the ultimate path adopted is suicide. As per National Crime Records Bureau, the total unemployment suicide deaths were 3548, out of which 3237 (91.23%) were males; 309 (8.71%) were females and the balance 2 suicidal death cases pertain to transgender.


One may argue whether attempt to suicide is a criminal office in India since such attempts are done when an individual is severely stressed. Section 309 in the Indian Penal Code criminalizes attempt to suicide as crime which reads as Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall he punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year 1[or with fine, or with both]”. However, section 115 of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 gives relief to a stressed individual who attempts suicide. The section 115 reads Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code”.


It raises a grave concern at the significantly higher number of suicide deaths in India for both men and women. It equally raises high concern over higher suicide deaths of men with 70.91%, making them more vulnerable in society. A mechanism needs to be put in place by the government for curbing suicide deaths by taking into consideration the various factors which forces an individual for suicide attempt.

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