Parliament to decriminalise suicide

Parliament has read for the second time the Criminal Offences (Amandement) Bill, 2021 which seeks to decriminalise suicide.

The motion to read the bill, which was laid in the House in August 2021, was moved by the Member of Parliament for Akatsi South and Ranking Member of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Bernard Ahiafor.

Aside decriminalizing suicide, the Bill when passed into a law, will also help decongest the prisons and reducing case loads on prosecutors.

Seconding the motion, Chairman of the Committee, Mr Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi indicated that the Bill, when passed into law, will bring a crucial legislative measure towards the reformation of Ghana’s justice system.

Mr Anyimadu-Antwi noted that proponents of the Bill are of the view that suicide is a mental health issue and, therefore, must not be treated as a criminal act.

He said some research findings that were made available to the Committee during its work shows that a survey conducted by the World Health Organisation in 2021 points to the fact that 7 persons per 100,000 people died out of suicide in the year 2019.

He noted further that suicide acts in universities in Ghana are also on the ascendency and indicated that 6.3% of university students attempted suicide, 24.3 wished they were dead, whilst 6.8% had plans to commit suicide. He mentioned one prevalent factor that contributed to this, as psychological distress.

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

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

The report also noted that interactions with some female victims who were put before court for attempting suicide revealed that they couldn’t bear the heartbreaks that came with terminating relationships with their boyfriends and decided to end their lives. The males on the other hand were influenced by financial difficulties.

The Committee Chair said based on the above factors, they came to the conclusion that suicide is more of a mental issue than criminal and hence must not be criminalised.

“The Committee has examined the provisions of the Bill and is of the view that the best remedy to dealing with attempted suicide is to provide avenues in schools, workshops, workplaces and community centers for the stressed persons with emotional problems to seek therapy and treatment…

“The Committee accordingly recommends to the House to adopt its report and pass the Criminal Offences Bill into law, in accordance with Article 107 of the 1992 constitution,” the Chairman said.

Commenting on the motion, Deputy Minority Leader and member for Ellembele, Mr Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, said he supports the Bill because he cannot comprehend how people who are already going through stress and attempt suicide will end up in jail.

He indicated that many health professionals have noted that an overwhelming number of people who attempt suicide are going through stress due to a number of challenges.

He said this requires that they are given some sort of help in the form of medical treatment and counseling and not jail.

He said when the Bill is passed it will enable people to report those who attempt suicide so that they can be offered the necessary help.

He said people are reluctant to report because of the fear of being jailed and, therefore, called on other members to support the passage of the Bill into law.


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