Cultural Habits with the Power to Kill

Cultural Habits with the Power to Kill

Cultural Habits with the Power to Kill

According to 2014 report from the World Health Organization titled, “Health for the World's Adolescents: A Second Chance in the Second Decade,” suicide is the leading cause of death for girls around the world aged 15-19. This is the first time that the leading cause is not maternal mortality. A recent drop in pregnancy and birth related deaths has exposed a long standing, culturally fueled, self-harm epidemic among teenage girls.

The high numbers worldwide are a result of the disproportionately high suicide rate for girls in Southeast Asian countries including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

The suicide rate among teen girls in these countries is about twice the national average and five times that of suicide rates in Europe or the Americas; and while the report by WHO looks at these cultures to identify specific factors that may account for suicide in general, there remains a clear gender bias that puts girls at higher risk.

Links between the high suicide rate and oppressive cultural practices include exclusion from education, forced marriages, being victims of violence, and/or abuse. As a result, young girls are at a higher risk of social isolation; living in such conditions feeds the epidemic that is taking so many young lives.

Suicide rates have been dropping since 2000 when WHO last came out with a report. The statistic for the worldwide suicide rate fell from 15.85 per 100,000 to 11.73 per 100,000 in 2012. Initiatives to address the suicide rate have yet to take on the underlying misogyny ingrained in the Southeast Asian cultures seeing the highest rates of suicide among teenage girls.

Issues of feminism and patterns of misogyny are often argued as matters of opinion in places like the United States, where people have the privilege to do so. Yet, as these World Health statistics support, the passive acceptance of any culture that deems women less valuable than men is a real, tangible, and deadly threat to the lives of numerous girls and women across the globe. Feminism is a crucial movement for all world citizens as it can protect the lives of young girls in these regions.


Changing culture is hard and is naturally met with crushing resistance, but with so many young lives on the line it is a necessity.


Kara Price is currently an undergraduate at New York University studying Philosophy, Psychology and Creative Writing. In addition to her academics, Kara pursues dance in the city, taking classes and performing with the Pulse Dance Project. The diversity of New York City is the perfect environment for Kara to foster her interests in feminist and LGBT activism and as she considers going on to law school she hopes these interests will manifest into a career dedicated to progress. Above all Kara is passionate about exercising her voice. She strives to speak out about those issues which mean the most to her and encourages all whom she encounters to do the same. 


This Week in Culture: July 17 - July 26

This Week in Culture: July 17 - July 26

Battling Violence Against Women

Battling Violence Against Women

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