BY UMSU PRESS
The Issue of Suicide
Suicide has for long been an age long issue and has become more scrutinised overtime given the increase in deaths due to it over the past decade. It has been held that the rate of deaths caused by suicide alone in 2019 ranged up to 700 000 lives which surpassed deaths caused by war and illnesses that year. Hence it comes to no surprise that various efforts have sprouted before and after that year to assist people and aid in the issue regarding self-harm and suicide. Assistance that were and still are well known for this issue would range from help lines such as ‘Befrienders’ to campaigns and spread awareness of the dangers of suicide. Similarly it can be said the law in many countries undeniably take note of suicide being a severe matter to be reckoned with and have come up with provisions in their respective nations to ease the problem or render help in productive ways. For instance, the law in Canadian criminal code has stated that anyone who assists or counsels another to suicide can be punished up to 14 years in prison. Hence the law also lends a hand in these sort of situations but there is a harsher view that some legislations take in certain nations that may have come under severe scrutiny as to whether it is necessary to begin with regarding issues on attempted suicide.
Maintaining Criticised Legislations
Though many nations have taken a docile and effective way to assist in the issue regarding suicide, up to 25 nations still hold onto the concept of ensuring it be criminalised as a method of deterrence. This issue has been and still is debated to be a hefty and ineffective manner of trying to curb the growing problem of suicide given the fact that many form of disadvantageous have been listed. Thus it was finally a sense of relive that the government of Malaysia and the lawmakers had finally taken the necessary steps to change the approach of the law from rendering those who attempted suicide as victims rather than criminals. However there is still a need to point out why this transition that has finally been taken by Malaysia ought to be maintained and better still why nations that hold onto the olden ways of law ought to follow suit in the near future given that criminalisation of attempted suicide dates back to 160 years ago when there was a severe lack of awareness on mental health importance.
Reasons for change in law for attempted suicide
i. Criminalisation of attempted suicide held to be non-effective
Firstly, many nations up to 59 of them have taken necessary changes to decriminalise suicide such as the United Kingdom, India which shares a similar penal code as us and now Malaysia. This displays that various nations have already come to accept that rendering punishment to the victims is not reasonable as a method of solving the issue. Although there have been opposing views that have held the increase in deaths after suicide was decriminalised, it can be said to have become non-conclusive given the rate of reduction of suicide amongst people and limited links that decriminalising the act of suicide was directly linked to any of the spikes of suicidal acts. Thus it solidifies the argument that decriminalising suicide wouldn’t cause the rise of tendencies to self-terminate or cause self-harm.
ii. Prevents people from reaching out early
Next, it was held by allowing suicide to be an act of crime, people have the tendency to not come out to the light. This in turn does not allow them to solve whatever inner conflicts or dilemmas they may be facing, leaving the problem unresolved. Thus it would aid people by increasing their courage to seek help in an earlier stage before attempting any rash decisions due to the persisting problems they are facing.
iii. Inclined to medical reasons rather than crime
Additionally it all falls back to the reason why many had advocated for decriminalisation of suicide as well which would be links to medical aid. Most of the causes that lead to suicidal tendencies range from people who suffer from mental stress, social isolation, PTSD and even due to abuse of substance. These are all issues that now consist of alternatives to treat or remedy given the increase of awareness of psychological related problems and mental deterioration that has increased. This is why one of the parties that had put in a word to decriminalise suicide was the Ministry of Health in Malaysia along with them urging for people to come forth and talk about their mental state.
iv. Stigma towards victims
The decriminalisation of suicide will also assist in ensuring the stigma attached to attempted suicide victims are not a factor to prevent them from reaching out. This would clearly be due to the fact those facing depression or mental issues leading to the tendency of suicide will hesitate to search for assistance with the fear that they would be labelled as criminals. This in turn leads to no solutions for progress within potential suicide victims. An incident that displays the said stigma associated with victims who had attempted suicide would be the experience of a suicide survivor who expressed herself to have felt humiliated for what she had attempted to do and insult was added to injury when law enforcers had extracted money from her father as a bribe to prevent her from being imprisoned in Pakistan.
Malaysian Legal Stand
With various reasoning tilting towards the favourable decision of decriminalising suicide which overwhelms any form of argument that opposes it, it was indeed spectacular that Malaysian lawmakers had finally agreed that Section 309 of the Penal code which offers nothing but imprisonment up to a year, a fine or with both had to finally be altered. Although arguments which were related to the increase of suicide rates and it being a deterrent to prevent suicide were amongst the discussion, it has all been held to be inaccurate and hence the amending of such law was done.
In a nutshell, Malaysia has finally seen the need to bring change in the approach of handling victims who attempted suicide in a more accurate manner rather than stick to the old method of prevention that has clearly failed and proven to be useless. Unfortunately, many countries such as Bangladesh, Bahamas and Kenya which our nation once fell under the same category with in this matter still practice laws that hold those who attempt suicide as criminals. This is why it remains a hope that every nation would one day understand the need to change laws that are no longer compatible with modern day society especially if it has shown to be more detrimental than necessary. Hence it may be done in Malaysia at this point but the importance of decriminalising suicide is still in a position that needs a lot of voices to support it for the sake of obsolete laws to be amended elsewhere too.
Written by Secretariat of Current Affairs 2021
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