DAP lawmakers repeat call to decriminalise attempted suicide

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Escalating number of suicides and attempted suicides reflect the urgency for immediate measures.

DAP has urged the government to state its stand on its bid to decriminalise attempted suicides.

In a joint statement today, lawmakers Ramkarpal Singh, Kasthuriraani Patto and DAP women’s wing Legal Bureau Chief Sangeet Kaur Deo, said the escalating number of suicides and attempted suicides reflect the urgency for immediate measures.

“We call upon the Law Minister and Attorney-General to provide an update on the status of the said studies and a clear stand on the decriminalisation of attempted suicides.”

Despite the government’s announcement that a repeal was being considered in December 2019 and reports that the Attorney-General’s Chambers was looking into the matter last year, no updates had been given for over seven months.

“Instead, in the last year, people who have attempted to end their lives were convicted and punished, some with imprisonment. This includes a case where Kuala Lumpur court sentenced an unemployed man who attempted suicide by stabbing himself with fragments from a broken glass window to a month in prison.

“A person with disability was also not spared imprisonment in February 2020 where a court in Terengganu convicted him under section 309 of the Penal Code for attempting suicide and sentenced him to six months imprisonment.”

The trio also supported calls for a moratorium on charges and penalties imposed against those attempting suicide.

“We support the call to impose an immediate moratorium on all pending cases and investigations relating to attempted suicides. The government must show it is committed in managing this serious mental health issue from a healthcare perspective instead of continuing to penalise survivors. ”

A suicide attempt is a crime in Malaysia punishable by a term of imprisonment or fine under Section 309 of the Penal Code.

The law is meant to serve as a deterrent, but experts have claimed that it is not backed by data.

Countries the world over have seen a climb in the number of suicides and attempted suicides over the last two years.

Malaysia for instance recorded 468 suicide cases in the first five months of 2021, up from an annual total of 631 cases in 2020 and 609 in 2019.

Unicef’s report on July 1 also stated that 872 teens aged between 15 and18 years old took their lives between January 2019 – May 2021, making up 51 per cent of the total 1,708 suicide cases reported within the period.

Former inspector-general of police Tun Hanif Omar had also supported the call stating that criminalisation of attempted suicides is an “inexplicable law” Malaysia inherited from England.

Hanif, who was the IGP for 20 years reportedly said those who attempt to take their own lives are almost always under extreme mental stress or unbearable pain.

In their statement, the DAP leaders also drew on the World Health Organisation’s data that at least 59 countries including Europe, North America, much of South America and few parts of Asia have shed the archaic laws.

“Data from countries that have decriminalised suicide, including Canada and New Zealand, shows that suicide rates have not increased after decriminalisation.

Hong Kong decriminalised attempted suicide in 1967 and implemented effective suicide prevention strategies.

India, which shares a similar Penal Code like Malaysia, recently decriminalised suicides in 2014.

In 2019, Singapore also decriminalised attempted suicides on the basis that it is a public health and social issue, not a criminal one.” – NST