UNFPA: United Nations Population Fund
Direct Link to UNFPA Document:
Fueled by Abuse: Self-Immolation and
Family Violence in
“I did not know how to end the misery of torture and daily beatings I got from my cruel husband. So I poured petrol on myself and set myself ablaze.”
-- Jamila, 18 year old
survivor recovering from her burns in a
The Extent of the Problem
Increasing numbers of women in
There are no reliable statistics on the actual number of
women who take their own lives by burning themselves to death. Most douse
themselves with gasoline or kerosene and then set themselves alight, usually at
home. Limited data in
These figures are considered gross under estimates because
authorities and families in mostly rural areas tend cover up suicides and
police list them as accidents.
By some estimates, at least 30 women attempt to end their lives by
self-immolation every month in
Underlying Causes Largely Ignored
Researchers documenting the incidence of self-immolation in
Gender-based violence is widespread in
Upwards of two thirds of the women who try to self-immolate are under the age of 30. Of those who survive, the majority claimed they were trying to end a life of misery, made worse by a forced marriage to a violent spouse or the brutality of their in-laws.
This was the reason given by Marhabo Tangerova, a young Uzbek woman forced to marry a man she did not know or love at the age of 17. After he began to beat her, the rest of his family joined in. Explained Ms. Tangerova, “At that time, at that moment, there was no other way. They didn’t just criticize me, they would beat me—even my sister-in-law would hit me with a bottle.”
An Uzbek legal expert claims that most of the female suicides he investigates are due to family violence and despair, while men usually kill themselves for economic reasons.
Up to 80 per cent of the cases of self-immolation in
UNFPA is working throughout
Combating suicide through self-immolation requires a
comprehensive approach to underlying causes. These include domestic violence,
which also encompasses sexual and psychological abuse. In
What is Needed:
· Governments should recognize the problem, and begin to design strategies to address it.
· Police and hospital staff need to be educated about self-immolation and report cases to national health authorities.
· Government agencies, working together with national and local NGOs, need to reduce gender-based violence in the home and promote the rights of women.
· Crisis centres need to have the capacity to rehabilitate women who have tried and failed to kill themselves and help them to rebuild their lives.
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Eurasian Studies Society, “Phenomenon of Self Immolation in
 A. Kueppers,
“Eurasia Insight: NGO Helps Turn Around Lives of Suicidal Women in
Asia Caucasus Institute, “Number of Self Immolations Growing in
Falkingham, Women and Gender Relations in
 IRIN,”Afkghanistan: Desparate Women Choose Suicide,” Reuters AlertNet, 29 November, 2006.
Tabyshalieva, Promoting Human Security: Ethical, Normative and Educational
Frameworks in Central Asia, UNESCO,
 Op. cit. 2.
 Op. cit. 7.
 Op. cit. 6.