Dewan Rakyat Unanimously Passes Bill To Decriminalise Suicide

Aiding and abetting suicide will remain a criminal offence.

Cover image via The Malaysian Reserve

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Dewan Rakyat has passed a bill to abolish Section 309 of the Penal Code, in a historic move to decriminalise suicide in Malaysia

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Ramkarpal Singh said the lower house unanimously approved the amendments to the Penal Code (Amendment) (No 2) Bill 2023.

According to him, the amendments are to remove Section 309 of Act 574 as there was no clear evidence that the law that criminalised suicide had helped reduce the number of such cases.

"Section 309 is a provision from the 19th century due to the old belief that criminalisation was the best way to prevent suicide attempts. Based on the approach taken by other countries, treatment, and not prosecution, is the most appropriate action to address the issue," Ramkarpal told the Dewan Rakyat.

"The abolition of Section 309 of Act 574 will be a stepping stone in efforts to prevent any attempted suicide in the country, and to aid those who need help to come out and seek help. This also would remove the stigma against any suicide attempts and decrease the rate of suicide attempts," he added.

Section 309 criminalised suicide attempts and carried up to a year in jail and a fine as punishment.

The government wants to move towards rehabilitative measures

"We hope that more people who are in need of help will come forward and seek treatment, and at the same time, we will be able to reduce the number of suicide cases in future," Ramkarpal said.

In his winding down speech during the debate session, Ramkarpal told the Dewan Rakyat that the rationale for the move to repeal Section 309 included the prevalence of depression and suicide risks, an increase in mental health-related issues and suicide cases, and the classification of suicide attempts as an illness.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Ramkarpal Singh.

Image via New Straits Times

Aiding and abetting suicide will remain a criminal offence

Currently, Section 305 only criminalises the act of abetting suicide for children, those with mental illnesses, delirious individuals, persons lacking mental capacity, or those in a state of intoxication.

And the existing Section 306 addresses the offence of abetting suicide by any person.

The amendments to Sections 305 and 306 will also cover the action of cyber bullies found abetting or influencing the suicides of children and those who are mentally disabled as a criminal offence.

"There are cyber bullies who are involved in encouraging the victims to end their own lives through online platforms. And if they are detected and there is evidence of the act on a child or a mentally disabled person, we will investigate the case," Ramkarpal said, as reported by The Star.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

If you or anyone you know is lonely, distressed, or having negative thoughts, please call these Malaysian hotlines:

Contact: +603-76272929
Email: [email protected]
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Contact: 15999
WhatsApp: +6019-2615999
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Daily (12pm - 12am)
Contact: 1800-18-2327
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For a more thorough directory of resources, head over to the websites of Malaysian Mental Health Association or MINDAKAMI.

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