40 Celebrities Who Committed Suicide
Robin Williams – Age 63
Beloved actor and Oscar winner Robin Williams ended his life in August 2014 by hanging himself with a belt at his home in Paradise Cay, California. It was revealed after William’s death by asphyxiation that the actor had been struggling with Lewy body dementia – which may have been misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease – a long history of depression, and a “recent increase in paranoia.” Doctors believe that Williams’ Lewy body dementia “was the critical factor” that resulted in his suicide. The iconic actor’s ashes were scattered in San Francisco Bay.
Marilyn Monroe – Age 36
This iconic bombshell died from a probable suicide by taking an overdose of barbiturates, with those close to her saying she was prone to “severe fears and frequent depressions,” as well as “abrupt and unpredictable mood changes.” Despite the verdict from the coroner, there are many conspiracy theorists who suggest that the powerful sex symbol was actually murdered or overdosed accidentally. Even President John F. Kennedy didn’t believe she committed the unfortunate act on her own terms! She certainly was gone much too soon.
Kurt Cobain – Age 27
The famed frontman of American rock band Nirvana died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in April 1994 at the young age of 27. Cobain had struggled with drug addiction and depression and had fled to a detox center in Los Angles before flying home to Seattle where he took his own life. Before his untimely death, Courtney Love (Cobain’s wife) hired a private investigator to search for her husband after he’d gone missing from the recovery center. Just a few days later, his body was discovered inside his home alongside a note he had written to his imaginary childhood friend “Boddah,” stating he no longer “felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music, along with really writing… for too many years now.”
Mindy McCready – Age 37
Country star Mindy McCready took her life in February 2013 at her home in Heber Springs, Arkansas by means of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The 37-year-old mother of two had been in and out of rehab for years and attempted suicide twice before, once in 2005 and another time in 2008. McCready fired the gun on her porch, the same place where her former boyfriend and youngest son’s father, David Wilson, fatally shot himself a month earlier. Just days before her untimely death, McCready received court papers proposing that her sons live with her mother instead. Perhaps she just couldn’t take any more devastating news.
Jonathan Brandis – Age 27
The NeverEnding Story II and seaQuest DSV star took his life by hanging himself in November 2003. Brandis, who was 27 at the time, was discovered in the hallway of his LA apartment building by friends. The young star was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, but died the following day from the injuries he sustained. Though he didn’t leave a suicide note, his friends stated he was depressed that his career was spiraling downwards. One even admitted that he took up heavy drinking and intended to end his short life.
Sawyer Sweeten – Age 19
Child actor Sawyer Sweeten, known for his role as Geoffrey Barone on the hit show Everybody Loves Raymond, took his life in April 2015. The 19-year-old died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Sources closest to Sweeten say that the young star was tormented by money troubles, his diminishing career, and bullying over rumors regarding his sexuality. His on-screen family members, and obviously his real family and friends, were left with broken hearts.
Jovan Belcher – Age 25
In December 2012, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his longtime girlfriend Kasandra Perkins nine times in front of his mother before driving to the Chiefs’ practice facility where he shot and killed himself in front of his coach and general manager. Just before Belcher shot himself, he said, “I wasn’t able to get enough help.” An autopsy found that he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), caused by repeated head trauma while playing American football that results in memory loss, aggression, confusion, and depression. The killings also orphaned Belcher’s 3-month-old baby daughter, Zoey.
Alexander McQueen – Age 40
Famous British fashion designer and couturier Alexander McQueen took his life in February 2010, just nine days after his mother passed away from cancer at the age of 75. McQueen committed the horrific act by ingesting a cocktail of cocaine, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers before hanging himself with his favorite brown belt. David LaChapelle, a friend of McQueen, said he “was doing a lot of drugs and was very unhappy” during the days leading up to his death. A memorial was held for the famed designer in September 2010, with stars like Kate Moss, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lady Gaga, and Anna Wintour in attendance to show their love, support, and respect.
Lucy Gordon – Age 28
This British actress and model who starred in films including Serendipity, Spider-Man 3, and The Four Feathers was found hanging in her Paris apartment by cinematographer Jérôme Alméras, with whom she shared the flat with, in May 2009. Gordon left behind two suicide notes, one with details regarding her last wishes for her estate and another for her parents. Gordon wrote out her will the day before her untimely death, splitting her estate between her parents, sister, friends, and Alméras.
Johnny Lewis – Age 28
Johnny Lewis, best known for his role as Kip “Half-Sack” Epps on the hit television show Sons of Anarchy, died in September 2012 by either jumping or falling from the roof, garage, or patio of his 81-year-old landlord’s home. It was reported that Lewis had climbed up onto the roof after killing his landlord, Catherine Davis, and her pet cat. Lewis’ family later spoke out about his history of untreated head trauma, saying that his condition could have led to a psychological disorder and was the potential cause of his sudden spurts of violence. Though drugs weren’t found in his system following an autopsy, Lewis did have a history of drug abuse that may have led to drug-induced psychosis.
Gia Allemand – Age 29
American actress, Maxim model, and The Bachelor contestant Gia Allemand attempted to take her life in August 2013 by hanging herself with a vacuum cord. Allemand was found and admitted to University Hospital in New Orleans where she was declared brain dead and removed from life support two days later. The 29-year-old star was dating NBA player Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans Pelicans at the time. Anderson admitted he and Allemand had been arguing through lunch before her death when she voiced her concerns that he had been unfaithful to her. That same night, he told her he no longer loved her.
Dana Plato – Age 34
Dana Plato, notable for playing Kimberly Drummond on the hit sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, took her life in May 1999 with an intentional overdose of Lortab, a painkiller, and Soma, a muscle-relaxant. The day before her death, the 34-year-old actress made an appearance on The Howard Stern Show where she discussed her financial problems and past run-ins with the law. She also admitted to having recovered from drug and alcohol abuse, though she claimed she was sober for over 10 years at the time. Perhaps those painkillers, given to her after she had some teeth extracted, should have been monitored more closely.
Chris Benoit – Age 40
Professional wrestler Chris Benoit, considered one of the greatest wrestlers in the world, committed suicide in June 2007 by hanging himself after a three-day period in which he murdered his wife, Nancy, and his 7-year-old son, Daniel. It was later revealed that the professional wrestler had suffered severe brain damage over the years and had a brain that resembled one of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient. He also had an advanced form of dementia, which can contribute to severe behavioral problems. Benoit’s father suggests his son’s brain damage was the leading cause of the horrific murder-suicide.
L’Wren Scott – Age 49
This fashion designer, stylist, and longtime girlfriend of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger hanged herself in her Manhattan apartment with a scarf in March 2014. Scott was reportedly suffering from a long period of depression. Mick Jagger was shocked, writing on his Facebook page the following: “I am still struggling to understand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way.” In the weeks following Scott’s sudden death, both her Banana Republic collection and high-end line at Barneys were in high demand and sold out.
Junior Seau – Age 43
unior Seau, 10-time All-Pro, 12-time Pro Bowl selection, and one of the NFL’s greatest linebackers, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest at his home in Oceanside, California in May 2012. Though he never left a suicide note, the football star left behind a scribbled note in his kitchen with lyrics from his favorite country song, “Who I Ain’t.” The song, co-written by one of his friends – Jamie Paulin – is about a man who regretted the person he became. Though some speculated that Seau suffered brain damage, there were no apparent signs found in his autopsy report. But in 2013, a report released by his family from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke showed findings of definitive signs of CTE, a condition traced to concussion-related brain damage.
Misty Upham – Age 32 Native American actress Misty Upham, best known for her role in the 2008 film Frozen River, went missing in October 2014 after she left her sister’s apartment on foot. Nearly two weeks later, Upham was found dead at the bottom of a cliff in a wooded area by a small search party her family and others had organized. A medical examiner determined she died from blunt-force injuries to her head and torso. After her initial disappearance, Upham’s family had announced their concern for Misty, citing her past mental health problems.
Ernest Hemingway – Age 61
This great American novelist, short story writer, and journalist took his life by shooting himself in the head with his favorite shotgun. But his wife, Mary, initially claimed he shot himself accidentally while cleaning the dangerous weapon. In an interview five years later, she admitted he had committed suicide. Hemingway had suffered from depression and alcoholism throughout his life and had been hospitalized three months earlier due to a previous attempt to take his own life. Medical records also confirmed that he had been diagnosed with hemochromatosis, a genetic disease that culminates in mental and physical deterioration.
Hunter S. Thompson – Age 67
Hunter S. Thompson, a journalist, author, and founder of the gonzo journalism movement, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at his home in Woody Creek, Colorado in February 2005. Thompson was on the phone with his wife when he took his life. He also left a suicide note, titled “Football Season is Over,” which read the following: “No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bit***. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your (old) age. Relax — This won’t hurt.”
Simone Battle – Age 25
This American actress, singer, member of the pop girl group G.R.L., and The X Factor finalist took her life in September 2014 by hanging herself in her California home. A spokesperson for the 25-year-old star said she had suffered from depression due to financial issues. Her untimely death shook the hearts of her family, friends, fans, and fellow entertainers. Many, including Simon Cowell, Pitbull, Nicole Scherzinger, and the others from G.R.L., paid tribute to Battle via social media. Hashtags regarding her death trended on Twitter across the globe.
Vincent Van Gogh – Age 37
Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh ended his life in July 1890 with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. The famous painter actually walked himself back to the Auberge Ravoux where he spent his last 70 days, though doctors in attendance couldn’t remove the bullet without a surgeon. Left alone in his room to smoke his pipe with his brother soon at his side, Van Gogh passed away not long after his body began to fail him. The painter had been struggling for years with severe depression and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, temporal lobe epilepsy, and acute intermittent porphyria.
Christine Chubbuck – Age 29
American television news reporter Christine Chubbuck shot herself in the head during a live broadcast in July 1974 after struggling with years of depression. Chubbuck covered the news as usual before announcing to the audience, “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in ‘blood and guts,’ and in living color, you are going to see another first – attempted suicide.” The broadcast rapidly switched to black immediately following the tragic incident. She was pronounced dead 14 hours later at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
Lee Thompson Young – Age 29
Lee Thompson Young, an actor known for his role as the title character on the Disney Channel series The Famous Jett Jackson and as Chris Comer in Friday Night Lights, passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in August 2013. The star was found by police in his Los Angeles apartment after he failed to show up to a filming of an episode of Rizzoli & Isles. It was later released that Young had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been suffering from depression before his death. His family went on to launch the Lee Thompson Young Foundation in hopes of removing the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Sylvia Plath – Age 30
Renowned poet, novelist, and short story writer Sylvia Plath took her own life by placing her head in a gas oven at her home in February 1963. Plath had sealed off the kitchen in her London apartment so that the carbon monoxide would not reach her two young children who were upstairs in bed at the time. Sylvia had tried multiple times to kill herself before her ultimate attempt and had described the quality of her despair as “owl’s talons clenching my heart.” She also claimed to have had constant agitation and an inability to cope with daily life.
Aaron Swartz – Age 26
Aaron Swartz, a computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, political organizer, and Internet hacktivist, committed suicide in 2013 while facing up to 50 years in prison for wire and computer fraud and abuse. Swartz was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment where he hanged himself two days following the prosecution that rejected his proposed counter-offer. At his funeral, Swartz’s father stated the following: “Aaron was killed by the government, and MIT betrayed all of its basic principles.”
Virginia Woolf – Age 59
English writer Virginia Woolf drowned herself in March 1941 by walking into the river by her home with large stones in her overcoat pockets to weigh her body down. Her body wasn’t found until around three weeks later. In her suicide note she wrote, “I feel certain that I’m going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do.” Woolf struggled with severe bouts of mental illness throughout her life, thought now to be bipolar disorder.
Michael “Mike Awesome” Alfonso – Age 42
Professional wrestler Michael “Mike Awesome” Alfonso hanged himself in his Tampa Bay home in February 2007. His lifeless body was discovered by a group of his friends. Details regarding the cause of his untimely death weren’t released until months later. The 42-year-old was released from jail not long before his hanging following a heated dispute he had with his wife in which he grabbed her throat and slammed her against a wall when she expressed her desire for a divorce. It’s thought that his criminal charges and loss of family were leading factors in his death.
Tony Scott – Age 68
Tony Scott, an English film director and producer known for films such as Top Gun, Crimson Tide, and True Romance, died from multiple blunt force injuries after jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles. Scott left notes for his friends and family, but neither mentioned any health problems. Later in a Variety interview, Tony’s brother – director Ridley Scott – acknowledged that Tony had been “fighting a lengthy battle with cancer – a diagnosis the family elected to keep private during his treatments and in the immediate wake of his death.”
Don Cornelius – Age 75
his American television show host, producer, and creator of the nationally famous dance and music show Soul Train committed suicide with a self-inflicted shot to the head in February 2012. According to Cornelius’s son, Don had been in “extreme pain” shortly before his death and suffered from multiple seizures on a daily basis due to a 21-hour brain operation he underwent in 1982 to correct a congenital deformity in his cerebral arteries. Shortly before his death, Cornelius said he didn’t know how much longer he could take the pain.
Michael Hutchence – Age 37
Michael Hutchence, founding member, lead singer, and lyricist of the rock band INXS, was found dead in his Sydney hotel room in November 1997. After his death, the state coroner ruled it a suicide, also stating Hutchence was depressed and under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Police reported that he was facing the door in a kneeling position. They then went on to say he “had used his snake skin belt to tie a knot on the automatic door closure at the top of the door, and had strained his head forward into the loop so hard that the buckle had broken.”
Jon-Erik Hexum – Age 26
American model and actor Jon-Erik Hexum accidentally killed himself with a blank-loaded gunshot round to the head on the set of TV spy show Cover Up, in which he played the leading male role, while playing an apparent game of Russian roulette. The blank that Hexum fired didn’t penetrate the skull, but had enough force to dislodge a quarter-sized piece of skull into his brain, causing massive hemorrhaging. On October 18, 1984, six days after the accident, Hexum was declared brain dead and taken off of life support. His tragic death was ultimately ruled accidental.
Jeff Alm – Age 25
This defensive tackle for the Houston Oilers, now the Tennessee Titans, killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Alm was driving his Cadillac convertible on an interstate with his best friend, Sean P. Lynch, in the passenger seat when he lost control after speeding on a curved exit ramp. Lynch was thrown from the vehicle to an embankment 30 feet below. Utterly distraught seeing his best friend’s lifeless body, Alm shot himself with a pistol grip shotgun. Both men had been intoxicated at the time of the tragedy.
Freddy E – Age 22
Seattle rapper Freddy E died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in January 2013. Before taking his own life, the hip-hop artist posted a last note on Twitter, writing “If there’s a God then He’s calling me back home. This barrel never felt so good next to my dome. It’s cold & I’d rather die than live alone.” It’s thought that the rapper was depressed and heartbroken after ending a long-term relationship. Many point to Honey Cocaine for causing his heartache, though she denies the assumptions.
David Foster Wallace – Age 46
David Foster Wallace, an American novelist, essayist, and professor, died by suicide in September 2008. The 46-year-old chose to hang himself from a patio rafter in his garage after writing a two-paged note and arranging part of the manuscript for The Pale King. Wallace’s father revealed in an interview that his son had been battling depression for decades, noting antidepressants allowed him to be productive. Though he was medicated, on-and-off treatments ultimately became ineffective for Wallace and led him to his death.
Freddie Prinze – Age 22
Actor and stand-up comedian Freddie Prinze, the star of the 1970s sitcom Chico and the Man, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in January 1977 following his struggles with marital problems, drug abuse, and depression. Though he was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center and placed on life support after emergency surgery, his family let him go the following day. A jury found his death to be accidental in a civil case years after, but it was ultimately ruled a suicide from a note Prinze had left stating he decided to end his short life.
Diane Arbus – Age 48
World-famous photographer and writer Diane Arbus killed herself in July 1971 by overdosing on barbiturates and slashing her wrists with a razor. She was found in her bathtub two days later. Arbus suffered from “depressive episodes,” which may have been made worse by symptoms of hepatitis. A few years earlier, she admitted that she would go “up and down a lot” and her ex-husband stated she had “violent changes of mood.” A year after her sudden death, Arbus became the first American photographer to have her work displayed at the Venice Biennale.
Terry Kath – Age 31
Terry Kath, founding member, original guitarist, and co-lead singer of the classic rock band Chicago, died in January 1978 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head while playing around with a semiautomatic 9 mm pistol. Kath, who regularly carried and played with guns, was having some fun with band technician Don Johnson when he picked up the pistol. Though Johnson warned him to be careful, Kath replaced the gun with what he thought was an empty magazine, placed it to his temple, and pulled the trigger. There was one round in the chamber and Kath was killed instantly.
Reinaldo Arenas – Age 47
This Cuban poet, novelist, and playwright died from an intentional alcohol and drug overdose in December 1990 at the age of 47. Arenas wrote in his suicide note that he ended his life while he was suffering from depression and severe health complications from AIDS, which he was diagnosed with three years earlier. Part of his letter read the following: “Due to my delicate state of health and to the terrible depression that causes me not to be able to continue writing and struggling for the freedom of Cuba, I am ending my life
James Whale – Age 67
James Whale, an English film director, theatre director, and actor remembered for films like Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, and The Invisible Man, ended his life in May 1957 by drowning himself in his swimming pool after a series of strokes left him weak and in pain. Whale’s death was initially ruled accidental until his suicide note was released decades later. In the first part of his note, Whale wrote, “Do not grieve for me. My nerves are all shot and for the last year I have been in agony day and night – except when I sleep with sleeping pills – and any peace I have by day is when I am drugged by pills.”
Assia Wevill – Age 41
Assia Wevill, a German who managed to escape the Nazis during early World War II, killed herself and the young daughter of poet Ted Hughes, with whom she had a relationship with. She chose the same suicide method as Hughes’ first wife, Sylvia Plath, by gassing herself and 4-year-old Shura in their London home. Wevill had given Shura sleeping pills dissolved in water before turning the gas stove on. The two were found lying together in the kitchen on a mattress.
Hart Crane – Age 32
American poet Hart Crane took his life in April 1932 by jumping off the steamship Orizaba into the Gulf of Mexico after he was beaten for making sexual advances to a male member of the crew. Although he was chugging down alcohol like water and failed to leave a suicide note, it’s believed Crane intended to kill himself. Some passengers even claim Crane exclaimed,”Goodbye, everybody!” before jumping overboard. His body was never found.
Wendy O. Williams – Age 48
Wendy O. Williams, lead singer of American punk band Plasmatics, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in April 1998 in a wooded area by her Connecticut home. Five years earlier, she first attempted to kill herself by hammering a knife into her chest, lodging it in her sternum before deciding she wanted to live. In 1997, she intentionally overdosed on ephedrine in a second suicidal attempt. Williams reportedly wrote in her suicide note that the world made no sense to her, but her feelings to end her life rang loud and clear.
Men risk their lives in wars so women can enjoy societies where they can pursue feminist goals, such as punishing men for sexist language.
India's female genital mutilation: a thousand-year-old secret
So little was known, until recently, about the secretive practice of FGM in a small Muslim community that India is not even on the UN’s list of FGM countries.
India’s Dawoodi Bohra community has been so closeted about its practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) that its recent disclosure shocked even women’s rights activists. It was the highly publicised criminal trial of the FGM of two Bohra girls in Australia, in 2010 and 2011, which shattered the secrecy around this practice. Following investigation and trial, the mother of the girls, the midwife and a Bohra priest in Australia were sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2016.
They are a Shia Muslim sect that migrated to India from Yemen in the 12th century. Their custom of FGM probably originated in Yemen as it’s still a widespread practice there. The Bohra population is only about one million in size, with most settled in western India, and smaller communities in other countries.
Perhaps what shocks most is that this practice is being carried out among the Bohras who are regarded as a progressive, prosperous and well educated community. In fact, the Bohras are proud that their daughters are encouraged to excel in their education and jobs in much the same way as their sons. Most Bohra women are not veiled and choose modern, western attire and lifestyles. Even the burkha of Bohra women, called the Rida, is designed to reflect the community’s view of itself as being innovative and progressive. The Rida leaves the face uncovered, with a flap as option, and instead of the conservative black, it is always in bright colours like deep pinks, reds and greens, with lace and designs.
Nonetheless, recent testimonies and initiatives by Bohra women indicate that FGM is practiced widely. In 2015 a group of women launched ‘Sahiyo’ meaning ‘female friend,’ an online platform that aims to create a safe, women-supported space for Bohra FGM survivors to share their personal stories and to lobby support via a petition for a law to ban FGM in India. As there is no law in India banning FGM, a survey by Sahiyo indicates that the ratio of Bohra girls who have been subjected to FGM could be as high as 80 per cent. The survey also includes Bohra women in the US, UK and Australia. After India, the second highest proportion of women in the survey, 31 percent, are in the US.
The Bohras practice Type-I FGM which involves the partial or complete removal of the clitoris or clitoral hood. The clitoris is referred to as the ‘Haram ki boti’ or ‘sinful piece of flesh’ a recognition of its biological role in women’s orgasms and libido. Even though FGM is called ‘Khatna’ or ‘circumcision,’ which is a ‘coming of age’ social ritual and fervently discussed and debated among women in other communities, what makes it odd among the Bohras is that it appears to be an extremely clandestine procedure. Aarefa Johari, one of the co-founders of Sahiyo says it is never talked about even among girls and women. Testimonies from Bohra women, discussed in agonising details, show the procedure is carried out by impoverished women practitioners, (who probably just need the income) in unhygienic environments, using a razor blade without anaesthesia.
FGM should be relatively easy to eradicate in India. Clearly many Bohra women want this custom abolished. Public testimonies of survivors show extreme angst. Many women have admitted that this has affected their sex lives adversely. Others speak of a much deeper psychological scarring caused by this childhood trauma. As one woman says, ‘The pain was blinding and ravaging… At 33, I feel sick and mentally disturbed because still I remember that day… I can only believe that most of our women feel like me. But consider themselves weak to change. But I ask still, Why? How can we put our children through this horror of FGM?’ Oddly, even though many Bohra women are extremely uncomfortable about the practice and want it to stop, there’s no clear answer as to why or how it continues.
‘People fear ostracism in the community,’ explains Aarefa Johari. She says families who don’t do FGM stay silent about their choice. Dilshad Tavawala, a child protection lawyer in Canada, who believes FGM is a violation of child rights, also speaks about how ‘the backlash [of ostracisation] is considerable and many just won’t do business with you.’
While ostracisation is a powerful tool of control in small, homogenous, rural communities, it is generally non-effective for the urban, middle and upper income, educated strata because the environment offers alternatives. However, what makes the Bohras an exception, is that the community’s structure and function is akin to that of a cult.
The community is tightly controlled by the religious head, the Syedna. Every individual, from birth, is issued a Bohra identity card without which they are not even allowed to enter their mosques. Bohras are required to take an oath of allegiance (misaq) to the Syedna, and must obtain his permission not just for religious issues, but for all personal, familial and professional decisions. Furthermore, they have to pay a compulsory tax to the Syedna for every activity – including birth, death, marriage, business and education. They must acknowledge him as the ‘Jan-O-Mal ka Malik’ (The Lord and Master of Their Life and Properties) and have the inscription `Abde-Syedna' or ‘Slave of the Syedna’ on their wedding cards. The Syedna also asserts himself as the sole trustee of all the mosques and associated properties, trusts and monetary contributions. As Asghar Ali Engineer (1939-2013), one of the fiercest spokesperson of the Bohra reformist movement had said, ‘You can’t literally breathe without their permission.’ The punishments for noncompliance are severe and include not being allowed to pray in the mosque, bury a parent, being forcefully divorced, being forcefully disowned by families, physical harm, and sabotage of businesses and careers. In 1978, the Citizens for Democracy appointed the Nathwani Commission to investigate charges of tyranny against the Syedna. In its 220-page report, the Commission recounted testimonies of victims and said it had found ‘large-scale infringement of civil liberties and human rights.’ Strangely, most Indian media did not report on this. The India Today magazine did but found that witnesses, who had agreed to speak to them, suddenly withdrew. After receiving threats, the magazine was forced to conceal the reporter’s name.
Successive Prime Ministers from Indira Gandhi to Narendra Modi have pandered to the immensely wealthy Syedna, conferring political clout on his totalitarian control on the Bohra community. The Syedna has encouraged the Bohras to embrace Modi despite widespread aversion to his role as chief minister in the 2002 carnage of Muslims in Gujarat for which he has been rewarded by Modi with a Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards.
In a 2016 public sermon in Bombay, the Syedna instructed the community to continue with FGM. He was responding to the FGM trials and arrests in Australia that year. The Australian authorities had arrested a senior Borah cleric for attempting to thwart investigations and for directing ‘members of the community [in Australia] to give false accounts to the police.’ Fearing a similar crackdown, the Bohra clergy in the US, UK and Europe told their communities to comply with the laws of the land. This was probably just lip-service for it is understood that the Syedna, whose seat is in Bombay, is the ultimate authority for Bohras the world over. In his public sermon the Syedna emphasised that ‘the act has to happen…Stay firm…Even [for] the big sovereign states…we are not prepared to understand.’
It is critical for India to have an anti-FGM law and to enforce its implementation, especially as India’s medical community has failed to address the ethics of FGM and is inclined to exploit it. The danger here is the medical legitimisation of FGM as Shaheeda Kirtane, co-founder of Sahiyo, points out.
A public petition to the Indian government by the advocacy group Speak Out on FGM to outlaw FGM in India has garnered more than 80,000 signatures. The groups founder Masooma Ranalvi, a Bohra FGM survivor, who has also been pushing for the UN to recognize FGM in India, has launched a second petition to the UN . Inclusion in UNFPA and UNICEF’s Joint Programme on the eradication of FGM would give Bohra activists the much needed global support to nudge the Indian government into action.
Man beaten, penis tied to pole after child rape claims surface
Cape Town - A man who was recorded being assaulted in an alleged mob violence incident in Valhalla Park, in a video which is being shared in social media, has refused to open a case against his attackers.
The assault comes after he was accused of raping a child.
In the video circulating on social media, people are seen beating the man with wooden planks as he sits on the ground. He appears to be dressed in only a t-shirt, and his penis is tied with string to a pole next to him.
A woman at one point says she had beaten him "enough" with a hammer on his genitals.
People kick the man, who has numerous facial wounds, while the crowd also threatens to set him alight.
A child can also be seen on a woman's hip, witnessing the attack.
Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut confirmed the incident.
"It is alleged by the community that he sexually assaulted a child, but police have no record of any sexual cases in Valhalla Park or any rape suspect who is sought," he said.
Family transported the man to hospital and police, but he refused to open a case.
"We are looking into the circumstances surrounding the matter," Traut said.