Parliament decriminalizes attempted suicide

Source The Ghana Report

The Parliament of Ghana on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, amended the sections of the Criminal Offenses Act of 1960, which criminalized attempted suicide.

According to the new law, any person who attempts to take his own life will be considered to have a mental health problem requiring medical assistance.

Aside from decriminalizing suicide, it is held that the law will help decongest the prisons and reduce caseloads on prosecutors.

This comes after the Criminal Offenses (Amendment) Bill was tabled before the house in 2021.

The motion to read the bill was moved by the Member of Parliament for Akatsi South and Ranking Member of the Constitutional, Legal, and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Bernard Ahiafor.

Proponents of the Bill were of the view that suicide is a mental health issue that needs health support rather than imprisonment, therefore, must not be treated as a criminal act.

However, some lawmakers were against decriminalizing attempted suicide.

The former Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, in 2019 described the attempt to take one’s life as an unacceptable behaviour that must rather be punished and deterred.

He stated that criminalizing an attempt to commit suicide would go a long way to discourage Ghanaians, especially the youth, to appreciate that there was no reward in killing oneself.

Research findings available to the parliamentary Committee during its work show that 6.3% of university students in Ghana attempted suicide, 24.3 wished they were dead, whilst 6.8% had plans to commit suicide.

A prevalent factor that contributed to this, was psychological distress.

At the Junior High School level, the research found that 27.6% of adolescents also attempted suicide.

The overarching factors that contribute to these behaviours were loss of economic control, sexual weakness, marriage, family issues, poverty, financial difficulties, and mental health issues.

Meanwhile, over 1,500 cases of suicide are reported nationwide every year.

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