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Suicide Attempts No Longer A Criminal Offence In Malaysia

Suicide Attempts No Longer A Criminal Offence In Malaysia

The amendments seek to reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and allow those who need help to seek the help they need.

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The Dewan Rakyat has passed the amendments to the Penal Code (Amendment)(No.2) Bill 2023, by voice vote, to decriminalise attempted suicide, The Star reported.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Legal and Institutional Reforms) Ramkarpal Singh said the amendments, comprising of four clauses, are to delete Section 309 of Act 574, to remove attempted suicide as a criminal offence.

Ramkarpal said the existence of Section 309, a provision from the 19th century, saw criminalising suicide as an act of prevention.

Abolishing Section 309 of Act 574 is a stepping stone towards preventing attempted suicide in the country and reduces the stigma around the issue to help people to come out and seek the help they need.

Previously, Section 309 punished anyone who attempted suicide with up to a year’s imprisonment, a fine, or both, upon conviction.

Ramkarpal said in the latest study published in 2022, countries that have amended or repealed the law to not criminalise attempted suicide saw a decrease in suicide death rates, Malay Mail reported.

If an individual is imprisoned or faced with legal procedures, this action will delay healthcare assistance given to the individual and increase the risk of suicide for the individual. Until now, there is no evidence or scientific study that supports or proves that the law which criminalises attempted suicide can prevent such acts in society.

Ramkarpal Singh, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Legal and Institutional Reforms)
Image: TRP File

Abetment of attempted suicide is also a criminal offence

The amendments also seek to recognize any abetment of attempted suicide by any individual as a criminal offence under Section 306 of Act 574.

Under Section 306, anyone who abetted someone’s suicide or attempted suicide faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine upon conviction.

The additional amendment includes making it a criminal offence for those who abet the suicide attempt of a child, a person of limited faculties, or a person in a state of intoxication under Section 305.

Ramkarpal said the amendments of Sections 305 and 306 would cover the action of cyberbullies found abetting or influencing the suicides of children, and those who were mentally disabled, as a criminal offence.

The decision would help protect victims from online bullying, which could lead to suicide.

The move to decriminalise suicide also sees the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment)(No.2) 2023 and Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2023.

According to Malaysiakini, several opposition lawmakers raised concerns over whether the amendment had considered religious views and the legal framework used in other Muslim countries.

Ramkarpal said the legal frameworks of countries that still criminalise suicide such as Brunei, Qatar, and Emirates were studied.

He also mentioned that Pakistan had already abolished the criminalisation of suicide. Ramkarpal added that the Attorney-General Chambers had also engaged with the Federal Territory Mufti Department and Syariah authorities to decriminalise suicide attempts.

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