Attempted suicide no longer a crime

THE Dewan Rakyat was unanimous in its vote to drop a legal provision that categorised suicide attempts as an offence, in a move seen as a stepping stone to helping those in need.

“The abolition of Section 309 of the Penal Code will be a stepping stone in efforts to prevent any attempt of suicide in the country to aid those who need help, and for them to come out and seek help,” said Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Legal and Institutional Reforms) Ramkarpal Singh.

Section 309 states that those who attempt to commit suicide shall be punished with a jail term of up to one year, or a fine, or both, upon conviction.

Yesterday, MPs approved the Penal Code (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill to abolish Section 309 in a move to decriminalise suicide in Malaysia.

“The existence of Section 309 was a provision from the 19th century because it was seen at the time that criminalising suicide would be an act of prevention,” Ramkarpal said in his winding-up speech.

“But nowadays, medical treatment, and not prosecution, is the best way to address the matter, based on approaches by other countries,” he added.

Based on research published last year, he said there had been a decrease in suicide rate in countries which had amended or abolished laws that criminalised suicide attempts.

The amendments also outlined that it would be a criminal offence to abet in any suicide attempt.

Currently, Section 306 of the Penal Code only states that it is an offence to abet in the commission of a suicide, which is punishable with an imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine.

Ramkarpal said these amendments would also cover the action of cyberbullies found abetting or influencing the suicides of children and those who are mentally disabled as a criminal offence.

The move, he said, was to protect people from online bullying which could lead to suicide.

“There are cyberbullies who are involved in encouraging victims to end their own lives through online platforms,” he said.

Ramkarpal said that 2.3% or almost 500,000 Malaysians aged 16 and above are prone to depression, based on a report by the Health Ministry published before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Research found that individuals who are facing depression are 20 times more at risk of suicidal acts or died of suicide,” he added.

The Dewan Rakyat also passed the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment No 2) Act, which is consequential to the amendments made to the Penal Code, as it also includes as a criminal offence, any abetment of the commission of an attempted suicide by a child or a person who lacks mental capacity or any person.

Following the passing of these two Bills to decriminalise suicide, the second reading of the Mental Health Act is expected to be tabled today.

The amendments to the Mental Health Act would define the position and powers of crisis intervention officers under Section 11.

These crisis intervention officers are allowed to apprehend any person believed to show mental instability and who pose a danger to themselves, others or to property.

Those suffering from problems can reach out to: Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 or 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 or WhatsApp 019-261 5999); Jakim’s Family, Social and Community care centre (WhatsApp 0111-959 8214); and Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929 or for a full list of numbers and operating hours).

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