Government To Table Section 309 Repeal By April To Decriminalise Attempted Suicide

Ramkarpal Singh says the government plans to table the repeal of Section 309 of the Penal Code in the current Dewan Rakyat meeting that ends April 4 to decriminalise attempted suicide, after years of advocacy to treat sufferers as patients, not criminals.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 – After years of advocacy from mental health advocates, Malaysia may finally see the decriminalisation of suicide in as little as a fortnight.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Ramkarpal Singh told the Dewan Rakyat today that the government plans to table an amendment bill to repeal Section 309 of the Penal Code in the current Dewan Rakyat meeting that is scheduled to end on April 4.

Section 309 punishes attempted suicide with up to one year’s jail, or a fine, or both.

“We hope to bring this bill in this current Parliament session itself for tabling, debate, and passage,” Ramkarpal told Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii during Question Time, who had asked about the government’s progress in amending Section 309 of the Penal Code to decriminalise attempted suicide.

Dr Yii said: “We know that those who try to kill themselves should be given health support or psychotherapy or psychosocial assistance, instead of being treated as criminals.”

Dr Yii, along with Subang Jaya state assemblywoman Michelle Ng and Kampung Tunku state assemblywoman Lim Yi Wei, previously met Ramkarpal last December to advocate for the decriminalisation of attempted suicide in Malaysia. All four legislators are from the DAP.

Previous Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin reportedly said last September that the country saw an 81 per cent increase in suicide cases in 2021 at 1,142 cases, compared to 631 cases in 2020. A total of 467 suicide cases were reported in the first six months of 2022.

Parliament will likely pass the amendment bill to repeal Section 309 of the Penal Code if it is tabled.

Ramkarpal also said today that the Mental Health Act 2001 must be amended, as the current law raises problems in the definition of people who try to die by suicide.

“This can cause problems related to efforts to rescue that person. So to ease rescue efforts, the Mental Health Act must be amended to produce the definition of someone who tries to kill themselves to enable enforcement officers, like Bomba and the police, to immediately save that person who tries to kill themselves to bring them to a hospital for evaluation within 24 hours.”

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