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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 51
January 12 , 2008

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Domestic violence and women's mental agony

Konika Biswas

Word Press

Saleha Begum of Bagerhat's Chitalmari upazila was married off in 1975 with a schoolteacher when she was only 16. The adolescent bride did not get the mental support from her in-laws what she needed. Her husband, Sajedur Rahim, used to move to town leaving Saleha back in the village because of his job. In his absence, Saleha had to endure all the mental and physical tortures by her in-laws.

As she was married off at an early age, it took some time for Saleha to have a baby. And this had provoked her in-laws to raise question even about her fertility. Saleha's husband used to feel sorry for her but could not protest. By the time the couple got two daughters and moved to Dhaka despite his family's objection. Saleha had thought she would now leave a happy life. But her in-laws were not ready to spare her yet. They continued to interfere in her personal life. Having failed to endure the long ordeal, the poor lady broke down mentally in 1999. Initially, no one cared a great deal about it. But, at one stage, her mental distress went out of control. Under pressure from the relatives, Saleha's husband first resorted to unscientific methods conducted by fakirs (holy men).

Last of all, Saleha was taken to a psychiatrist only to know that she had been suffering from schizophrenia. Unhappiness, mental torture and negligence were blamed for the psychological problem. Take the example of Sabrina's mom. She is also a victim of negligence and mental torture. Sabrina, a second year university student, says, “My dad is the second husband of my mom and he could not normally accept her first marriage. So he had a lack of passion for her. My dad never gives my mom the attention she deserves as a wife. My father humiliates and lets others humiliate her. As a result, my mother broke down psychologically.”

Let's turn to the much-talked-about two sisters -- Mita and Rita. One is doctor and another engineer. These two talented women are also suffering from schizophrenia. Misbehavior by their close relatives is blamed for this. The two sisters gradually withdrew themselves from everything and chose to confine themselves in their huge house. Meanwhile, with the help of media and other organizations they were provided medical treatment and they got cured. But the problem has relapsed for lack of all-time support.

All the three case studies point at the severity of the problem. More or less it exists in almost all the families of the country. Intolerant behaviour towards women by the family members, including husband and children, causes the mental breakdown. This mental distress, in many cases, leads women to schizophrenia.

Dr Rezwana Kadri, a psychiatrist of Lab Aid Hospital, says, “If a mental problem persists for a longer period an individual may suffer from any disease. In case of schizophrenia it has to be seen if a women is being respected.”

In our society, a mother or wife does everything apart from earning money. But they have no say when it comes to decision making. Mothers, usually, do not have any say in matters like timing of having a baby, children's education and their marriage. In many cases, this negligence causes an adverse reaction among the women, particularly those belonging to middle class and educated families.

Any person may suffer from schizophrenia. Psychiatrists have identified depression to a great extent and sadness as the main reasons for this disease. Dr Mohit Kamal, a psychiatrist of National Mental Health Institute, says, “Schizophrenia is such a mental disease where people's thoughts are attacked. Perception becomes faulty. One becomes unaware how he or she is behaving.” According to specialists, if an individual has certain symptoms for two months or more primarily he or she can be considered as a schizophrenic patient. These symptoms are delusion, hallucination, disorganized or catatonic behaviour and negative symptoms (lack of human quality).

The tendency of schizophrenia among men and women is the same. But there is a difference in terms of age. On average, men are more affected at age between 20 and 25 while women between 25 and 30. But the prevalence of getting affected after 40 is also predominant among women.

Although the tendency of this disease is equal among men and women, the number of female victims in Bangladesh is greater than that of men. As women become the victims of complication of the society, they are vulnerable to this disease. Another reason is that schizophrenia is a hereditary disease. Dr Zahir of National Mental Health Institute says, “One per cent people has the tendency of this disease. It's not that there should be an expression of that.”

Schizophrenia is actually a result of compilation of many causes such as family history, mental and social condition and violence at home. Women in Bangladesh are more vulnerable to this disease because they are humiliated at home in many ways by their close relatives. “Family troubles can deteriorate the condition of a victim to a great extent when his or her perception does not work,” says Dr Zahir.

In most cases, schizophrenic women find themselves in a devastating situation in the third-world countries. Usually, they are tortured inhumanly by fakirs and exorcists thinking that they have been influenced by demons and ghosts. Instead of helping, the relatives turned their back on the victims. According to experts, there is a suicidal tendency among 50 percent of the schizophrenic patients. Of them, 20 percent of the victims under treatment become successful in their efforts to commit suicide.

Previously, 70 percent patients had to be on medication for the rest of their life. But due to the development of medical science in recent time 25 percent get cured completely. Those who do not stay 50 percent well through proper medication, love and care. In this regard, Dr Mohit says, “If the family and relatives want schizophrenic patients can lead a complete normal life. But, lack of security and love may cause the relapse of this disease in case of 40 percent patients.”

All the experts are of the opinion that provided rehabilitation, love, care and compassion of the family members, schizophrenia is not at all an incurable disease. The good news is family ties are very strong in our country. Therefore, husband's love and care can increase the self-control and courage of a mentally distressed woman.

Dr Zahir says, “Pakistan is on top in case of rehabilitation of schizophrenic patients, as their family ties are strong and love for each others is profound. And, Bangladesh is no exception.”

A housewife is the life of a family. Her mental devastation will influence her future generation very badly. Therefore, all-out efforts are essential to address the issues for which women may suffer from this dangerous disease. Besides, mass awareness is very important about reduction of violence against women and various types of mental diseases.

- News Network

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