World

As the pandemic took hold, suicide rose among Japanese women.


While the pandemic has been difficult for many in Japan, the pressures have been compounded for women. As in many countries, more women have lost their jobs. In Tokyo, the country’s largest metropolis, about one in five women live alone, and the exhortations to stay home and avoid visiting relatives have exacerbated feelings of isolation.

Other women have struggled with the deep disparities in the division of housework and child care during the work-from-home era, or suffered from increases in domestic violence and sexual assault.

The rising psychological and physical toll of the pandemic has been accompanied by a worrisome spike in suicide among women. In Japan, 6,976 women died by suicide last year, nearly 15 percent more than in 2019. It was the first year-over-year increase in more than a decade.

Each suicide — and suicide attempt — represents an individual tragedy rooted in a complex constellation of reasons. But the increase among women, which extended across seven straight months last year, has concerned government officials and mental health experts who have worked to reduce what had been among the highest rates of suicide in the world. (While more men than women died by suicide last year, fewer men did so than in 2019. Over all, suicides increased slightly less than 4 percent.)

The situation has reinforced longstanding challenges for Japan. Talking about mental health issues, or seeking help, is still difficult in a society that emphasizes stoicism.

The pandemic has also amplified the stresses in a culture that is grounded in social cohesion and relies on peer pressure to drive compliance with government requests to wear masks and practice good hygiene. Women, who are often designated as primary caregivers, at times fear public humiliation if they somehow fail to uphold these measures or get infected with the coronavirus.

In one widely publicized account, a 30-something woman who had been recuperating from the coronavirus at home died by suicide. The Japanese news media seized on her note expressing anguish over the possibility that she had infected others and caused them trouble, while experts questioned whether shame may have driven her to despair.

  • Galicia, in northwestern Spain, on Tuesday became the first region of Spain to approve a law that imposes fines on people who refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The law, which was approved in Galicia’s regional parliament, sets fines of as much as 60,000 euros, or nearly $73,000, if a person’s decision to refuse vaccination is deemed to result in “a very serious risk or harm for the health of the population.” The law was approved by lawmakers of the conservative Popular Party, which governs Galicia, but fiercely criticized by opposition politicians as an attack on individual choice. The central government of Spain, which is led by the Socialist Party, also opposed the Galician law.

  • Ukraine said it had obtained its first vaccine supply on Tuesday, buying 500,000 doses of an Oxford-AstraZeneca version made in India. Ukraine, which has been reporting more than 5,000 cases a day, said the doses were earmarked for front-line medical workers. “We are grateful to our Indian partners,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine wrote on Twitter after the delivery on Tuesday.

  • Two European soccer giants, Atlético Madrid and Chelsea, will meet in the Champions League on Tuesday — in Bucharest, Romania. On Wednesday, Manchester City will play the German team Borussia Mönchengladbach — in Budapest, the Hungarian capital, where the English champion Liverpool beat Germany’s RB Leipzig last week. In the Europa League, the continent’s second-tier club championship, neutral sites are now almost as common as home games. The pandemic has wreaked havoc with international sports schedules for a year, and that chaos continues to affect soccer’s biggest club tournaments. The reasons — government edicts, travel restrictions and quarantine rules — vary around Europe. UEFA, the European soccer governing body that runs the competitions, has decided that if restrictions adversely affect any game, it will be played at a neutral site where travel is permitted. But the decision to play knockout games in places seemingly chosen at random has led to confusion, and not a little grumbling

Raphael Minder, Andrew E. Kramer and Victor Mather contributed reporting.



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