What suicides reveal about gender bias
This article uses some general findings in the medical literature on suicide to suggest how male and female suicide rates in a society can be used to measure the "unfreedom" of women relative to that of men. Our definition of "unfreedom" is similar to that of Amartya Sen and consists of all kinds of suppression of mental or physical freedoms such as physical or sexual abuse, poverty, lack of economic opportunities, and so on, as well as an absence of liberty to voice complaints about the denial of the mentioned elementary freedoms. Though suicides are often associated with mental disease partially attributable to genetic factors, a mental illness is neither necessary nor sufficient for suicide. Rather a suicide is often the result of a multiple coincidence of mental disorders and repression of elementary freedoms. Given that the male and female cohorts in a society have the same genetic background, a major change in the male female ratio of suicide rates can conceivably occur only through a change in the relative incidence of unfreedoms. An application of this inference is attempted for Indian states.
Volume (Year): 37 (2008)
Issue (Month): 5 (October)
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- John F. Helliwell, 2004. "Well-Being and Social Capital: Does Suicide Pose a Puzzle?," NBER Working Papers 10896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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