Sat, Oct 20, 2018 - Page 6 News List

China reflects after rural woman’s suicide

WHO TO BLAME?After a woman’s husband faked his death to escape debt, she killed herself and her children, fearing that her son and daughter ‘will be bullied like me’

The Guardian

The suicide of a woman in China’s Hunan Province who drowned herself and her two children after believing her husband had died has prompted a national debate about life in rural areas for women.

The husband, surnamed He (何), had allegedly faked his own death to escape financial debt and secure an insurance payout for his family.

He is being held on suspicion of destruction of property and insurance fraud after handing himself in to police.

He, who owed more than 100,000 yuan (US$14,431) to online lenders, had on Sept. 19 driven a rented car into a river, Xinhua County police said in a statement.

Three weeks after He’s disappearance, his wife, surnamed Dai (戴), posted a letter on Wechat that she was going to kill herself to reunite their family.

Police said that He turned himself in on Friday last week, a day after the bodies of his wife and two children were found.

In a video published by a local media outlet, He said he had planned to hide for some time and then retrieve his wife and children and go into hiding with them. He had not told his wife about the plan.

“My daughter, who is ill, has to get medical checks every month. I have to pay off car loans and our family expenses. I’m also sick. I did this to avoid debts,” he said. “I never thought my wife would be so infatuated with me.”

Chinese media continue to pore over the details of the case, interviewing He’s relatives, and posting screenshots of Dai’s farewell letter and blurred-out images of the young couple.

Debate ranges from criticism of China’s lending industry, which has left many citizens in debt, to harsh conditions for rural Chinese women.

“The core of this tragedy is not ‘death for love’ or cheating for financial security. This is about the complete and unresolved desperation felt by women. This desperation is more common in the countryside,” a Beijing News editorial said.

For years, China has been one of few countries where suicide rates are higher for women than for men.

Suicides are more common in rural areas than urban centers, which researchers say might be linked to a lack of economic opportunities, social isolation and family planning policies that forced women to have abortions.

In her letter, Dai blamed herself for not working and staying home with their son and daughter.

She alludes to being criticized.

“I wanted to leave alone, but without their parents, my son and daughter will be in pain and will be bullied like me,” she wrote.

In her letter, Dai also said her brother-in-law had told other villagers that she was mentally unwell.

In an editorial, Guangming Daily columnist Xiong Zhi (熊志) blamed the heavy burden of family pressure and rumors in small communities.

“This cruel choice can also be understood as Dai wanting her daughter to avoid going through what she herself has suffered,” Xiong wrote. “We can’t measure this tragedy in simple terms of right and wrong — just like we can’t say simply that Dai ‘died for love.’”

“It is a reminder that the protection of women’s rights and status in China still has a long way to go,” Xiong added.

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